The Wizard of Cobenzl

(Published in Grail World 9/1998)

Karl Freiherr von Reichenbach (1788 - 1869), the greatest, righteous and decent scientist of the 19th century and the third greatest since the fall of Atlantis.
Franz FERZAK, 1987

In our society the "recognized science" dominates, which declares itself to be responsible for all areas of life and human society as the final authority and with this claim to omnipotence has replaced the once equally dominant church.
In addition to this apparently unassailable authority of modern science, which has only been questioned in exceptional cases, endeavors mocked as “pseudo” or even “after-scientific” lead a mostly miserable existence. These “occult” or “esoteric” researches try, for example, to penetrate the realm of the transcendent, to produce evidence of the existence of a “hereafter” that is inextricably linked to the this world accessible to our day-consciousness, or a life after death, multiple earthly lives and much more to prove and to fathom the effective principles.
Anyone who tries to move in this inaccessible area will encounter strict rejection by recognized scientists who usually speak of error, charlatanry or fraud. On the other hand, however, a researcher of the occult is often met with excessive admiration by his followers, as is expressed in the quoted statement by Franz Ferzak.
Between these extremes we find Karl Freiherr von Reichenbach, a now almost forgotten honest researcher who made valuable contributions to the development of the steel industry as an industrialist in the early 19th century, discovered new products as a chemist, and finally came across transcendent phenomena as a searching person, whose research he devoted many years of his life.

Karl Ludwig Friedrich von Reichenbach was born on February 12, 1788, into a family living in modest middle-class circumstances in Stuttgart and was only able to study for a few semesters after graduating from high school in 1807/08. It was not until a wealthy marriage in 1810 that he had the chance to put his talent for technology to practical use and even to earn a doctorate years later. He was particularly captivated by the steel industry, which was still underdeveloped in Germany at the time and relied on charcoal to smelt iron ore. Reichenbach recognized the weaknesses of the charcoal processes commonly used at the time and designed improved masonry furnaces that produced the best charcoal more cheaply than before for ironworks in the Black Forest.

Industry pioneer Reichenbach
So he acquired a reputation as an ironworks engineer and got the chance to modernize extensive iron works of the former count Hugo von Salm-Reifferscheid-Krautheim as technical manager (later as director) and partner in Blansko (north of Brno). Reichenbach converted the long outdated method of coking charcoal in kilns to his modern process, and had rolling mills and machine shops built. His successful work received public recognition, and the old count was extremely satisfied.
Reichenbach had less luck building a sugar factory. The technology for which he was responsible worked well, but far fewer sugar beets were delivered than planned, and the beet cultivation, which was managed by an incompetent administrator, was too expensive, so that the overall balance of sugar production was not satisfied, which Reichenbach was later chalked up to.
The coking of charcoal produces by-products, which Reichenbach worked on as a chemist and discovered a number of new substances, for example paraffin, which he was the first to recognize as being suitable for candles. Reichenbach should also have priority for other important discoveries, for example the aniline dyes, which are ascribed to other scientists in chemical lexicons. -
After the death of the old Count Hugo in 1836, Reichenbach was slandered in a bad way by his heirs and the result was a break. Reichenbach was resigned and moved to the Reisenberg estate he had acquired (popularly known as "Cobenzl" after the previous owner) near Vienna.

A pioneer of esotericism
In Vienna, Reichenbach had a seminal encounter for the rest of his life, which his biographer Schrötter describes as follows: “It happened at the beginning of May 1844 that Reichenbach was consulted one day by the Viennese doctor Eisenstein about certain peculiar phenomena which he had observed in the hospital bed. It was a case of catalepsy (Note: = rigidity, state of tension of the muscles; considered a symptom of schizophrenia). The cataleptic state can also be induced artificially by hypnosis), in which the patient in question expressed extraordinary irritability to the influence of magnets which were brought near her, furthermore perceived light impressions in great darkness where other persons could not see anything. As a result of a visit which Reichenbach was induced to make to that patient, he wondered whether the emanations of a magnet might also be visible. An experiment in this sense was therefore organized by him, which in fact completely confirmed Reichenbach's conjecture. As Reichenbach pursued this striking new fact with great zeal from that moment on, he was drawn into that long series of physical-physiological investigations which he later referred to as 'odische' or 'on od and sensitivity' in several smaller treatises and has published larger works. "
Reichenbach soon came to first results through further experiments with various media, which can be summarized as follows:
· A strong magnet has a peculiar irritant effect on many healthy and sick people; he is an agent of life force. (Before Reichenbach, Paracelsus - Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim, 1493 to 1541 - and Johann Baptist von Helmont - 1577 to 1644 - tried to treat sick people with “magnetic stones.” Helmont speculated that the function of the human body could be based on magnetism.)
Those in whom this irritability occurs to a high degree often show very keen senses and are then able to perceive light and flame-like phenomena on the magnet.
Reichenbach can also determine that crystals emit a fine light at their poles, which ordinary, healthy eyes are not, but which is visible to irritated nervous patients, in whom all senses are in an unusually sharpened state.

From now on, Reichenbach sees his life's work as researching these phenomena through numerous experiments with “sensitive” (the term “sensitive” goes back to Reichenbach).
It was obvious for Reichenbach to establish a relationship to the so-called "animal magnetism" (a term coined by Franz Anton Mesmer, 1734 - 1815, cf. "Mesmer's Magic Magnetism") and to find out that similar effects can be caused also without magnet and namely with bare hands ("Be-Handlung!"). Corresponding light or flame phenomena, visible only for sensitive people, were then discovered on hands, plants, whole people, until Reichenbach finally believed to discover a universal life force in the "Od-force", which he investigated in detail. The most important results were published, for example, in 1854/55 in a two-volume work entitled "The Sensitive Man".
Whether and to what extent these observations by Reichenbach were based on modern measurements by Dr. Fritz Albert Popp (cf. Grail World Issue 3, “The Discovery of the Aura”) has not yet been investigated.
Checks of Reichenbach's experiments by Gustav Theodor Fechner (1801 - 1887) or the Society for Psychical Research (1882) did not produce any confirmation.
Often esoteric observations cannot be repeated at will. The success of such an experiment seems to depend on the medium, the experimenter and a number of other, largely unexplored influences. Otherwise the irrefutable proof of the existence of the occult or the transcendent would have long been successful.

Science versus transcendence
In scientific circles of his time - including luminaries like Justus von Liebig - Reichenbach's Od research found almost all negative evaluations. Then as now, the effects that cannot be proven with physical methods have a hard time. Unfair to biting polemical writings against the Od and its discoverer denigrated Reichenbach's life and prompted him to make correspondingly clear replies, which, however, did not bring any of his opponents even to review their points of view. After his death the controversy subsided, and today Karl Freiherr von Reichenbach is almost forgotten.
There are now hundreds, maybe thousands of writings (some of which even mention Reichenbach's name) on aura, orgone, shakras, spiritual healing, magnetopathy, Kirlian photography, biophotons, etc. - all effects that can be related to Reichenbach's "Od", maybe even identical with it. But the evidence for these phenomena accepted by scientists is still missing, as in Reichenbach's time, if one disregards the biophotons, which can no longer be discussed away. Science versus transcendence - a never-ending story?

Even the names chosen for esoteric phenomena sometimes get in the way of understanding. We tend to explain the previously unknown with the latest technical achievements:
· In Mesmer's day, experiments with magnets were a widely noticed phenomenon. So Mesmer's healing powers were called "animal magnetism". Mesmer's healing powers probably have little to do with what a physicist today understands by “magnetism”. -
· Since the turn of the century, attempts have been made to explain all possible transcendent effects - from astrology to the pendulum - with "radiation". Probably because wireless telegraphy, X-rays, radium, echo sounder, radar etc. opened up new dimensions in technology.
· Today “information” is a favorite word that can be applied to many world puzzles. For example, popular science commentators like to call humans the product of their genes, which in turn can be described as "information".
· There have recently been similar approaches with the “chaos theory”, which seems to make “chance” scientifically explicable and which discovers order in the apparently chaotic.

The terms “magnetism”, “radiation”, “information”, “chaos”, however, generate certain ideas that do not necessarily have to provide good analogies for the transcendent processes mentioned. They tend to deter a physicist and make it difficult for him to seriously consider the hypotheses of esotericists.

Reichenbach's bitter end
It remains to be added as an interesting comment that the industrialist Reichenbach's working and successful life did not end in a happy way in every respect; because two years before his death, i.e. at the age of 79, it lost almost all of its fortune.
Reichenbach had taken a bank loan in an Austrian ironworks in Ternitz (approx. 60 km from Vienna, on the Semmering Railway), which he intended to rehabilitate as an excellent specialist. But a foolish partner left him too little influence until the company was as good as bankrupt. Now Reichenbach had to take the management into his own hands and take out further loans. Everything seemed to be going according to plan until fate struck unexpectedly:
The infamous Sepoy Rebellion broke out in India (1857), with which the Indians rose against the English colonial administration. The occasion was a new rifle whose cartridges had to be bitten off with your teeth. These cartridges were provided with beef fat, which was ritually forbidden for Hindus; a fact that gave the final impetus to the uprising. This Indian uprising made waves as far as Austria: Railway tracks intended for India were initially no longer needed there and were unceremoniously thrown away on the European continent, which brought the Austrian steelworks into great difficulty.
For Reichenbach everything seemed to be going well for four years after all; for he had some goods whose income would be sufficient to pay off his debts, and he could hope that the uprising in India would be put down and the European steel market normalized again. But then another, unpredictable misfortune struck him; this time in the form of a drought in Galicia. The river San dried up, and Reichenbach was unable to have the timber intended for sale flow from his Nisko estate (approx. 80 km south-south-west of Lublin) across the Vistula to Gdansk. The following year there was a revolution in Poland, and the following year the Baltic War broke out (German-Danish War, 1864). The Nisko estate was missing three annual income that Reichenbach had expected. The credit institution went to foreclosure, in which Reichenbach's property came under the hammer ...
It is interesting to note in today's age of globalization how a century and a half ago cartridges greased with beef suet triggered a survey in India that caused a chain reaction which, among other things, led to the ruin of Austrian steelworks ...

What remains?
We are left with the memory of a pioneer of iron and steel industry and chemistry who, following his thirst for research, wanted to make the boundaries between strict science and transcendence more permeable.
To this day, neither his discovery of the Od nor the existence of the transcendent is recognized. Hopefully that will change soon; for as long as mankind only wants to see the material, the here and now, it resembles a chess player who takes less than half of the board and pieces into account and cannot understand that his cleverly thought-out moves repeatedly end in failures.

(1) Ferzak, Franz: "Karl Freiherr von Reichenbach", Munich 1987.
(2) Reichenbach, Karl Freiherr von: “Investigations into the dynamids of magnetism, electricity, warmth and light in their relationship to life force” 2 volumes, Brauschweig 1849/50.
(3) Reichenbach, Karl Freiherr von: "Odisch magnetic letters", Stuttgart 1852.
(4) As before: “The sensitive person and his behavior towards the Od”, Stuttgart 1854.
(5) As before: "The world of plants in their relationship to sensitivity and to the Od", Vienna 1858.
(6) Schrötter, Anton Ritter von Kristelli: "Karl Ludwig von Reichenbach",
Almanac of the Imperial Academy of Sciences, Vienna 1869.