site logo

Vital Forces Animal And Vegetable

Sources: 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,
nd 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.