The Odic force is the name given in the mid-19th century to a hypothetical vital energy or life force by Baron Carl von Reichenbach. Von Reichenbach coined the name from that of the Norse god Odin in 1845.
As von Reichenbach was investigating the manner in which the human nervous system could be affected by various substances, he conceived the existence of a new force allied to electricity, magnetism, and heat, a force which he thought was radiated by most substances, and to the influence of which different persons are variously sensitive. He named this vitalist concept Odic force. Proponents say that Odic force permeates all plants, animals, and humans.
Believers in Odic force said that it is visible in total darkness as colored auras surrounding living things, crystals, and magnets, but that viewing it requires time first spent in total darkness, and that not everyone has the ability to see it. They also said that it resembles the eastern concepts prana and qi. However, they regarded the Odic force, not as associated with breath, like India’s prana and the qi of Eastern martial arts, but rather mainly with biological electromagnetic fields.
Von Reichenbach hoped to develop a scientific proof for a universal life force, however his experiments relied not on scientific instruments but on perceptions reported by individuals claimed to be psychically sensitive or psycho-kinetically adept. The “sensitives”, young women recruited from the poorer social classes, worked in total or near-total darkness, and were forerunners of the Spirit Mediums who appeared all over Europe 10 years later, in the 1850s.
The Odic force found no favor among mainstream scientists, and belief in it survives today as one among many concepts of spiritual energies associated with living things. The Odic force has been mentioned frequently in European books on dowsing, such as Reveal the Power of the Pendulum, by Karl Spiesberger.