Radiant Heat, Musical Vapours, and Fairy Bells
Theosophist, April, 1881
Article Selections | Opening and Closing Notes by H.P.B.
An intelligent and ingenious friend in Europe has sent to Col. Olcott a letter of which portions are by permission given below. The paper upon the “Action of an Intermittent Beam of Radiant Heat upon Gaseous Matter,” read by Professor Tyndall, F.R.S., at the Royal Society on the 13th of January, was duly published in Nature, for February 17, 1881, and should be read in this connection. It seems as though Mr. Crookes, in the department of Radiant Matter, and Professor Tyndall, in that of the action of Radiant Heat upon Vapours, were running, hand-in-hand, right towards the territory of arcane science. They have not far now to go before coming to where we stand and wait.
[Note: here was printed a selection from the letter in question; see The Theosophist, April, 1881, p. 157. The author first details Prof. Tyndall’s experiments in “the production of musical notes in the vapours of various acids, of water, and other substances, by a beam of radiant heat,” etc. He then adds:]
My object in going into these details is to suggest the possibility that they may lead us many steps towards an understanding of the scientific principle involved in the production of the raps and musical sounds, or fairy-bells, we have all heard Madame Blavatsky make so often, at her pleasure, and that, familiarly, though involuntarily, occur with mediums. Professor Tyndall finds that the passage of broken beams or pulses of heat through the particles of atmospheric vapour occassions sound; heat, we know, is but a mode of motion; and heat, electricity, and magnetism mutually correlate and may be mutually transformed. . . . Is it, therefore, too violent a stretch of fancy to suppose that Madame Blavatsky, having learned the exact nature of these atmospheric constituents, their currents and correlations, their relation to the ether or akasa and their responsiveness to impulses of the human vital magnetism, odyle, aura, or will-force—as we may prefer to term it—produces her air-bells by a process analogous in principle, with that employed by Professor Tyndall in getting the musical tones above described, though infinitely less rude and mechanical? That she projects from herself a wave of will-power through the akasa which being transmitted through a moist atmosphere cross-current, produces sound? We must all testify to the following facts:—(a) She has always produced the bell-sounds loudest in fair, cold weather, that is, in an atmosphere most favourable to the development of vital electricity in her system; (b) the effort she makes is always followed by a rapid increase of circulation of her blood, sometimes even by violent palpitations of the heart. Now we understand that universally diffused, tenuous medium, known by us as ether and by the Hindus as akasa, to be the source of mundane forces, nature’s dynamo-machine, whose action evolves the visible universe. And, as the elementary gases are coarser products of the akasa, receiving their motion from it, and the human will-force is believed to be a refined and dynamic form of akasa, why not suppose that the will-current, traversing the atmospheric elementary constituents, sets their particles in such rhythmic vibration as to produce sound? We see electricity in the presence of aqueous vapour, producing sound on a majestic scale as thunder, and the same element snapping and sparkling as it is discharged from the human hand, in the now familiar experiment of lighting gas by sliding over a wollen carpet, and then touching the iron gas-burner with the finger. In the late Baron Reichenbach’s odylic researches it was, moreover shown that this vital aura is discharged from our hands and feet, and is conductible not only by a metallic wire, but also by the atmosphere; also that odyle is generated by electricity and that the electrical atmosphere can set it in motion. The heat-rays of the spectrum he found most remarkably productive of odylic effects, and not only the elementary substances, but everything in nature, the gases included, contains it. In short, odyle is a property of all matter, in variable and unequal distribution. This gives us even a more direct and unmistakeable connection between Madame Blavatsky, the evoker of the atmospheric sounds, and the vibrating gaseous particles whose mutual motions produce them. Finally, here again we turn our backs upon supernaturalism, and bring occult phenomena where Madame Blavatksy has always insisted they belong, viz., within the reach of exact science—an end we, Theosophists, are always seeking.
Note.—It is not for us to say just how near Col. Olcott’s correspondent is treading to the limits of exact truth; but he is on the right path and not very far away from his goal. If we were permitted, we might be more explicit.—Ed. Theos. [H.P.B.]