Visible Images of Invisible Energies

Doctor Jerome Kidder’s “Vitalizing Electro-Medical Apparatuses”—rather like storage batteries, with transformers, and electrical leads—were advertised for use in treating a wide array of ailments, such as nervous headaches, burns, and “female complaints.”  Each disease required that the apparatus’ leads be placed differently on the body (one of the leads was mounted with a wet sponge to make better contact).  This was the method of treatment that Elizabeth French adopted, and the method that she passed on to Emma Hardinge.

headache treatmentKidder treated many different diseases with his apparatuses, and he marketed a selection of machines, from a less-expensive home model to his larger Physician’s Office model, with “polished veneered rosewood case, bound and ornamented with German silver” ($57).  While experimenting with ways to treat cataracts, Kidder seems to have discovered a phenomenon—an artifact, one might say, of his machine—that seemed highly significant to him.  When applied to the eye, his machine could make visible energies that are normally invisible.  This could be accomplished through regulating the character of an electric current so that it registered on the optic nerve as a visible pattern, thereby exciting the vision in a way similar to that of light.  Thus one could see, as images, electrical currents in their varied characteristics.

“light is recognized as the effect of vibrations or wave motions in the ether, which is everywhere; and the different colors result from the different length of these rays.  [. . .] And yet, even the difference in the character of the vibrations or wave lengths of the ether gives a difference in their chemical effects.  [. . .] the magnetic influence which excites the electricity [. . .] would produce currents modified in qualities.”

treatment of the eyeMany spiritualists believed that spirits existed as a form of electromagnetic energy—or, that electromagnetic energy was the “bridge” between spirit and matter.  On this basis, if one could render electromagnetic fields visible, the goal of making spirits visible to the eye was that much closer.

In the artist’s “experiments” reported below, the very fact that Kidder spent so much effort in investigating, documenting, and publishing these results, suggests that he believed the particular shapes and forms that were registered on the optic nerve under the stimulation of electricity and pressure were significant—perhaps as signatures of realities that bridged the inner forms of the mind and body, or of spirit and matter.  Kidder was not a spiritualist.  He preferred to explain psychic phenomena as expressions of a person’s “multiple personality,” which was physically based on the twin hemispheres of the brain, and the particular difficulties that the optic nerves, in particular, encountered when trying to reconcile their different perceptions.  However, he was not a materialist, either: He reported, as serious, cases in which the visual stimuli of pregnant women were imprinted or “photographed” onto their fetuses—as, for example, in a case he considered of a baby being born with birthmarks that resembled burn marks after its mother watched a large fireworks display.

Don’t try this at home—or anywhere else, for that matter.

Jerome Kidder, Researches in Electro-Allotropic Physiology. Uses of Different Qualities of Electricity to Cure Disease.  New York, 1877: 9-12.

The Exercise of the Visual Functions.

By using the proper electric currents, the eye and the brain may indeed experience phenomena, like to the reception through the eye of white light, colored light, and light of the characters called fluorescence and phosphorescence.

Dr. Kidder has made costly Electrical Apparatus, having the current ranged in quality to produce more special varied optical phenomena, which are not observable effects of his more ordinary apparatus.  One of these instruments was placed in the hands of an artist, for him to illustrate the visual phenomena produced by the current, and the following are the results which he gave, after thorough experiments with currents of pretty strong power:

Fig. 1Fig. 1.  Placing the sponge to the bone over the left eye softly, observed lines of light, which were sometimes straight, with slight flashes crossing them, (all white light.)


Fig. 2Fig. 2.  Now by pressing hard against the bone on the right side of the right eye, there is a great change.  Immediately globes of a red color shoot from the right to the left slowly, and blue globes (1) will burst asunder like meteors and instantly disappear; small yellow star-like shapes (3) will continue to travel up and down, while instantaneous white flashes pass through the field.  There is also a slight ringing in the ear.


Fig. 3Fig. 3.  Moving the sponge across the forehead (at eyebrows) to the left eye, there are vivid flashes (2), while yellow spots move rapidly across, dying out near the centre (3), while a bright light (1) at the left moves up and down. [. . .]


Fig. 4Fig. 4.  Sponge over the right eye, there is a yellow light on the left side, dying out at the centre, trembling as it dies into darkness.  There is a humming noise in the right ear.


Fig. 5Fig. 5.  Rainbow colored globes slowly moving from left to right, while flashes cross from left to right: the sponge is now on the eyelid and considerable force of the current (7 minutes) pressing hard.  Now placing sponge on the left eye, Fig. 6 came into view. [. . .]


Fig. 6Fig. 6.  Sponge on the left eye, pains run over the head, the short yellow flashes appeared, while in the centre were light blue spots rapidly appearing and disappearing.  (Strong power of the current.)


Fig. 7Fig. 7.  After resting ten minutes, the sponge was placed in the corner of the left eye by the bridge of the nose—strong power of the current was applied, when I received a violent shock and a reflection, as sunlight on the ceiling is reflected from a basin of water, moving at an angle up and down, the centre ring being the brightest, and dying out as they came near to the surface of the field of vision.


Fig. 8Fig. 8.  The current was now made very weak, and pressing the sponge on centre under the eye, an object like a coiled snake appeared, with flashes of light around it.  These became more vivid by harder pressing with the sponge, and they moved constantly, dying out at the tail with a flash, the base of supply being the centre a.


Fig. 9Fig. 9.  Feeling a pain on the top of my head, I removed this in a very short time by using the proper current, in the manner recommended by Dr. Kidder.  Then placing the sponge on the right corner of the right eye, and making the current strong, globes (a) of a rainbow-colored appearance moved slowly from the left to the right, but died out as they came in contact with (b), another ball or globe of light the same size but different in character, as the light in (b) radiates from the centre to a bright yellow ring.  As the two globes met, the (a) changed into purple and disappeared, while (b) moved downward, keeping on the right side (c), raining dark blue spots, and making an instantaneous disappearance.


Fig. 10Fig. 10.  A trembling light, and bright spot (2), dying as it leaves the ring—and by rubbing the sponge from left to right the form 3 appeared: half red and blue shot out with a strong light at the left side, but very small.  This was followed with small flashes (4), the current being kept to the right eye thirteen minutes. [. . .]


Fig. 11Fig. 11.  Placing the sponge now to my left eye, and making the current strong, I saw stars in about four seconds.  Rings vibrating came from the ends, growing weaker as they approached the centre, where they died out entirely.  This was very beautiful.  It commenced with yellow at the first ring; about the fourth or fifth ring they became red, and disappeared in a faint blue.


Fig. 12Fig. 12.  Producing this, I placed the sponge wetted with water to my right eye, and in a few seconds the spots (c), of a blue color, first came to view; then moving the sponge to the right side of the eye, bars appeared and disappeared; these were of different colors; there were sometimes from three to four bars upon one another, in the manner in which crystals are observed in wine.  Moving the sponge to the orbit and pressing hard, (a) came to view and moved to an obtuse angle the same as in Fig. 7.


Fig. 13Fig. 13.  Two hours after the former experiment I used the current again, moving the sponge in a line from temple to temple, running over the forehead, when on a sudden I placed the sponge over the orbit of the right eye, and made the current strong.  There appeared a bright light, dying out in the centre, when it changed to an oval shape as bright as a calcium light (a).  In about two seconds a blue ring formed around (a) and enlarged, when another yellow ring formed around the blue (b) dying out at the edges (c); then it moved as a pendulum of a clock (aa), when flashes or small jets came from the rim, finally dying out.  Now moving the sponge to the corner of the eye by the bridge of thenose, and pressing, a general explosion took place, as shown by the Fig. 14.


Fig. 14Fig. 14.  A white light dying out at the centre of the field, with small rings running from right to left, and dying before reaching the rim.  These were of a bright red color, and blue when dying; a few waving lines were also visible.

The function of hearing is best exercised by currents of high intensity though of low quantity.  The current on a comparatively short and thin wire, is to the sensation what may be called sharp, cutting.  The modified effects produced by using a condenser so as to lengthen the spark of the current between separated electrodes, from a definite coil, does not extend to produced specially different physiological results.

Through its allotropic powers, the nervous system not only presides over the action of organs and the replenishing of their wasting tissues, but also to a great extent, it provides remedy for adverse adventitious impressions, as poisons, etc.  For example, typhoid fever is seldom taken except when the nervous system is in a somewhat depressed state; and always when any kind of disease is prevalent, the condition of the nervous system very much determines whether attacks by that disease will be experienced, which is a fact well known.  By such offices of the nervous system, which seem almost miracles, like a guardian angel, undoubtedly we are daily protected from many unseen and unknown dangers surrounding us.


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