The Odic force (also called Od [õd], Odyle, Önd, Odes, Odylic, Odyllic, or Odems) is the name given in the mid-19th century to a hypothetical vital energy or life force by Baron Carl von Reichenbach. Von Reichenbach coined the name from that of the Norse god Odin in 1845.
As von Reichenbach was investigating the manner in which the human nervous system could be affected by various substances, he conceived the existence of a new force allied to electricity, magnetism, and heat, a force which he thought was radiated by most substances, and to the influence of which different persons are variously sensitive. He named this vitalist concept Odic force. Proponents say that Odic force permeates all plants, animals, and humans.
Believers in Odic force said that it is visible in total darkness as colored auras surrounding living things, crystals, and magnets, but that viewing it requires hours first spent in total darkness, and only very sensitive people have the ability to see it. They also said that it resembles the eastern concepts prana and qi. However, they regarded the Odic force as not associated with breath (like India's prana and the qi of Eastern martial arts) but rather mainly with biological electromagnetic fields.
Von Reichenbach did not tie Odic force into other vitalist theories. Baron von Reichenbach expounded the concept of Odic force in detail in a book-length article, Researches on Magnetism, Electricity, Heat and Light in their Relations to Vital Forces, which appeared in a special issue of a respected scientific journal, Annalen der Chemie und Physik. He said that (1) the Odic force had a positive and negative flux, and a light and dark side; (2) individuals could forcefully "emanate" it, particularly from the hands, mouth, and forehead; and (3) the Odic force had many possible applications.
The Odic force was conjectured to explain the phenomenon of hypnotism. In Britain, impetus was given to this view of the subject following the translation of Reichenbach's Researches by a professor of chemistry at the University of Edinburgh. These later researches tried to show many of the Odic phenomena to be of the same nature as those described previously by Franz Mesmer and even long before Mesmer by Swedenborg.
Von Reichenbach hoped to develop scientific proof for a universal life force; however, his experiments relied on perceptions reported by individuals who claimed to be "sensitive", as he himself could not observe any of the reported phenomena. The "sensitives" had to work in total or near-total darkness to be able to observe the phenomena.
Reichenbach stated that, through experimentation, possibly 1/3 of the population could view the phenomenon, but far less otherwise. Author Sydney Billing claimed to have witnessed it, as well as colleagues who were medical doctors in England who viewed it through experimentation.
Scientists have abandoned concepts such as the Odic force. In western popular culture the name is used in a similar way to qi or prana to refer to spiritual energies or the vital force associated with living things. In Europe, the Odic force has been mentioned in books on dowsing, for example.
- 1920: The detective in the Sax Rohmer book "The Dream Detective" sleeps at the scene of crimes and gets a picture of the deed through the odic force.
- 1932: Od is presented as an all pervasive force in Communication with the Spirit World of God by Johannes Greber.
- The power of Od is the focal point of an episode of CBS Radio Mystery Theater about von Reichenbach.
- Published 1988 onwards: The magic used by Schierke in the manga Berserk is called Od.
- 1998+: Cerebus, in Fred Saberhagen's Book of the Gods was made using odylic forces.
- 2004: Od is used in Fate/stay night as magical energy humans can produce.
- 2008: Od is a form of energy or force the teacher Reiji Takano of the video game Lux-Pain is investigating in the same way Carl von Reichenbach did. He set up a machine and investigated statues which were later on revealed to be devices created by one of the game's antagonists.
- The Odyll force appears in the fiction of Brian Keaney.
- 2010: The villainous fictional version of Thomas Edison who appears in Atomic Robo comic books is obsessed with harnessing the Odic force (via direct current) to unlock the secret of immortality.
- 2014: The Supernatural (U.S. TV series) episode Reichenbach includes a scene where Crowley re-imbues the angel Castiel with "Grace", i.e. his Odic force.
- Theresa Levitt The Shadow of Enlightenment: Optical and Political Transparency in France, 1789-1848 2009, p. 113
- Serge Kahili King, Serge King Earth Energies: A Quest for the Hidden Power of the Planet 1992, Chapter 3 The Odic Force and Reichenbach, pp. 38-60
- Mary Coddington Seekers of the Healing Energy: Reich, Cayce, the Kahunas, and Other Masters of the Vital Force 1991, p. 67
- Peter Johannes Thiel The Diagnosis Of Disease By Observation Of The Eye To Enable Physicians, Healers, Teachers, Parents to Read the Eyes Kessinger Reprint Edition, 2004, p. 52
- Mark Woodhouse Paradigm Wars: Worldviews for a New Age 1996, pp. 191-192
- Charles R. Kelley Life Force... the Creative Process in Man And in Nature 2004, pp. 286-287
- Bruce Clarke, Linda Dalrymple Henderson From Energy to Information: Representation in Science and Technology, Art and Literature 2002, pp. 140-141
- "Scientific materialism and ultimate conceptions", Sidney Billing. Bickers and Son, 1879. p. 364
- Spiesberger, Karl (1989) . Der erfolgreiche Pendel-Praktiker: Das Geheimnis des siderischen Pendels - Ein Querschnitt durch das Gesamtgebiet der Pendel [Reveal the Power of the Pendulum: Secrets of the Sidereal Pendulum, A Complete Survey of Pendulum Dowsing]. ISBN 0-572-01419-8.
- Odin Force Definition in An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural
- Researches on Magnetism, Electricity, Heat and Light in their relations to Vital Forces or here
- Luminous World
- Odic Energy ("Site suspended" (2014-02-21), but archived as of 2013-12-30 on Wayback Machine)
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.