Vitalism and Spirituality in The Age of Electricity
The successes of the era of the Enlightenment in the treatment of energy in natural science were intimately bound up with attempts to study the energies of life, as when Luigi Galvani's neurological investigations led to the development of the Voltaic cell. Many scientists continued to think that living organisms must be constituted of special materials subject to special forces, a view which became known as vitalism. Mesmer, for example, sought an animal magnetism that was unique to life.
As microbiologists studied embryology and developmental biology, particularly before the discovery of genes, a variety of organisational forces were posited to account for the observations. From the time of Driesch, however, the importance of "energy fields" began to wane and the proposed forces became more mind-like. Sometimes, however, as in the work of Harold Saxton Burr, the electromagnetic fields of organisms have been studied precisely as the hypothetical medium of such organisational "forces".
The attempt to associate additional energetic properties with life has been all but abandoned in modern research science. But despite this, spiritual writers and thinkers have maintained connections to these ideas and continue to promote them either as useful allegories or as fact.
Some early advocates of these ideas were particularly attracted to the history of the unification of electromagnetism and its implications for the storage, transference, and conversion of physical energy through electric and magnetic fields. Potentials and fields were viewed after the work of James Clerk Maxwell as physical phenomena rather than mathematical abstractions. Aware of this history, spiritual writers positivistically adopted much of the language of physical science, speaking of "force fields" and "biological energy". Concepts such as the "life force", "physiological gradient", and "élan vital" that emerged from the spiritualist movement would inspire later thinkers in the modern New Age movement.
- Vitalism of Johannes Reinke and Eduard von Rindfleisch
- Entelechy of Driesch
- Élan vital of Henri Bergson
- Vis medicatrix naturae (healing force/power of nature) - Hippocrates; later sometimes interpreted as a vitalist energy.
- Recapitulation theory of Ernst Haeckel
- Morphic field of biologist Rupert Sheldrake
- L-field of Harold Saxton Burr
- Kirlian Photography of Semyon Davidovich Kirlian - The Body Electric
- Odic force of chemist Carl von Reichenbach
- Psychoenergetics of Professor William A. Tiller
- Animal magnetism of Franz Anton Mesmer
- Vril of Edward Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Baron Lytton
- Aura of Walter Kilner
- Biotic energy of biochemist Benjamin Moore
- Somatotype and Constitutional Psychology of William Sheldon
- Mitogenetic radiation of Alexander Gurwitsch
- N ray of Prosper-René Blondlot
Famous quotes containing the words electricity, age and/or spirituality:
“Prudence and justice tell me that in electricity and steam there is more love for man than in chastity and abstinence from meat.”
—Anton Pavlovich Chekhov (18601904)
“Perhaps a modern society can remain stable only by eliminating adolescence, by giving its young, from the age of ten, the skills, responsibilities, and rewards of grownups, and opportunities for action in all spheres of life. Adolescence should be a time of useful action, while book learning and scholarship should be a preoccupation of adults.”
—Eric Hoffer (19021983)
“Zen ... does not confuse spirituality with thinking about God while one is peeling potatoes. Zen spirituality is just to peel the potatoes.”
—Alan Watts (19151973)