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Vital Forces Animal And Vegetable

Source: A Newly Discovered System Of Electrical Medication

Upon these points I must be permitted to offer a few words.

Of the animal kingdom, I regard the "nervous fluid" or "nervous
influence," popularly so called, as being the very principle of animal
vitalization--the life force; and that, a modification of the
electric force. It is, I think, pretty generally conceded at this day
that the "nervous influence" is probably electric. There are some
alleged facts, and other certain facts, which go far to sustain this
view. It is said that if we transfix, with a steel needle, a large nerve
of a living animal, as the great ischiatic, and let it remain in that
condition a suitable time, the needle becomes permanently magnetized.
So, too, if the point of a lancet be held for some length of time
between the severed ends of a newly-divided large nerve, that point, as
I have heard it affirmed, on what appeared to be good authority, becomes
magnetized; although I have not attempted to verify either of these
cases by experiment. However, admitting them to be true, the metal is
charged with simply the "nervous fluid." But the fact on which I myself
chiefly rely for evidence of this identification, being almost daily
conversant with it in my practice, is this: The "nervous influence"
obeys the laws of electrical polarization, attraction and repulsion.
When I treat a paralyzed part, in which, to all appearance, the action
of the nerve force is suspended, I have but to assume that this force is
electric, and apply the poles of my instrument accordingly, and I bring
it in from the more healthy parts, along with the inorganic current
from my machine. Forcing conduction through the nerves, by means of my
artificial apparatus, I rouse the susceptibility of the nerves until
they will normally conduct the "nervous influence" or electro-vital
fluid, as I term it, and the paralysis is removed. Again, if I treat an
inflamed part, in which the capillaries are engorged with arterial
blood, I have but to assume that the affected part is overcharged with
the electro-vital fluid, through the nerves and the arterial blood, and
so to apply my electrodes, according to well known electrical law, as to
produce mutual repulsion, and the inflammatory action is sure to be
repressed. I manifestly change the polarization of the parts. This thing
is so perfectly regular and constant that I am entirely assured, before
touching the patient, what sort of effect will be produced by this or
that arrangement in the application of the poles of the instrument. If I
desire to increase or depress the nervous force in any given case, I
find myself able, on this principle, to produce the one effect or the
other, at will. Hence, I say, the nervous influence obeys the electric
laws, just as does the inorganic electricity. I find this subtle agent
not in the nerves only, but also in muscle and blood--more especially in
arterial blood. Indeed it seems to pervade, more or less, the entire
solids and fluids of the animal system. And wherever it exists, its
action is just that of an electro-vital force. Examples of this fact
will appear further along in the present work. While, therefore, I can
not affirm the identity of animal electricity and animal vitality, the
theory of their identification, to my view, best accords with the
manifestations under correct therapeutic treatment, and I am unaware of
any established fact to disprove it.

Vegetable vitality, also, I regard as another modification of the
electric force. The fact has been proved by repeated experiments, that
galvanic currents, passed among the roots of vegetables, causes a
quickened development of the plants to a degree that would be deemed
incredible by almost any one who had neither seen it nor learned its
rationale. I have seen it stated, on authority which commanded my
credence, that by this process lettuce leaves may be grown, within a few
hours only, "from the size of a mouse's ear to dimensions large enough
for convenient use on the dinner-table."

The following experiment has been related to me by several different
parties, as having been made by Judge Caton, of Ottawa, Illinois; and
subsequently the same has been confirmed to me by his brother, Deacon
Wm. P. Caton, of Plainfield, Illinois. It is said that the Judge had
some interesting evergreens which appeared to be affected by an
unhealthy influence, causing a suspension of growth and withering of
branches here and there, until such branches died. So the process went
on, terminating after a little time in the death of the trees. In this
way he had lost some valuable specimens. At length a very fine and
favorite evergreen was similarly attacked. He felt, of course, annoyed
by the destructive process, and especially reluctant to lose this
particular tree. Probably calling to his recollection something
analogous to what I have referred to above, he resolved to try the
efficacy of galvanism to reinforce the vitality of the shrub. Having a
telegraphic wire extending from the main line in Ottawa to his own
residence, he availed himself of this facility, and caused a wire to be
passed among the roots of this tree in such a way as to bring the
galvanic current to act upon them. It was not long before he saw, to his
delight, a new set of foliage starting from the twigs, and after a
little time the tree was again flourishing in all its beauty. The
electric current had evidently imparted to it a fresh vitality.

To insure the success of such an experiment, a proper regard to
polarization must be had, such as is taught in the system presented in
this book. There may not have been any attention to this matter in the
case just related; but if not, the Judge must have stumbled upon the
correct application of poles. To have brought the roots under the
influence of the wrong pole would have made sure the death of his tree.

Now, although, if taken by themselves, such experiments could not be
regarded as conclusive in favor of the electric nature of vegetable
vitality, notwithstanding that this theory best explains the phenomena;
yet, when considered in connection with the fact that the nervous fluid
of the animal kingdom is evidently a modification of electricity, and
probably constitutes the vital force of the animal, the theory of its
identification, under another modification, with the vital principle in
the vegetable kingdom also, as deduced from experiments like those just
adverted to, receives strong confirmation, and is now, I believe, being
adopted by many of the best philosophers of the age.

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