A Newly Discovered System of Electrical Medication
by Daniel Clark
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Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1869, by


In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States for the Northern District of Illinois.

Transcriber's Note:

Minor typographical errors have been corrected without note. Medical, scientific, archaic and variant spellings remain as printed, except for obvious errors noted at the end of the text. The oe ligature is shown as [oe], whilst [->] represents a right-pointing index.


In the summer of 1866, the author of this little book, moved by the repeated and earnest solicitation of his Medical Classes, prepared and printed a small pamphlet entitled Practical Principles of Medical Electricity, designed more particularly, as the present work also is, as a Hand-Book to assist the memory of those who have taken a regular course of LECTURES from himself, or from some other competent instructor in the same general system of Practice. The edition of that work was exhausted somewhat more than a year ago. Still, the book has continued to be frequently called for. The author has, therefore, prepared, and now offers to the Profession, the present volume, comprising the substance of the previous work—corrected, improved in arrangement and form, and about doubled in size by the introduction of new matter. While he has reason for gratitude that the former manual, referred to above, has met with so favorable a reception, he can not but hope that the present work will be found even more acceptable and valuable to both practitioners and their patients.

It is but justice to say that the most essential principles of practice here presented did not originate with the present author, but with PROF. C. H. BOLLES, of Philadelphia, their discoverer, from whom the writer received his first introduction to them. Yet, the explanations here given of the Law of Polarization, as respects the electric current in the circuit of the artificial machine, as well as respecting the natural magnets and magnetic currents of the human organism; the introduction of the long cord, with the explanation of its advantages; and also nearly everything of the philosophic theories here brought to view, the author alone is responsible for.

This work, like its little predecessor from the same pen, has been adapted exclusively to the use of DR. JEROME KIDDER'S Electro-Magnetic Machine, manufactured and sold, at present, at No. 544 Broadway, New York; because the author, having used in his own practice a considerable variety of the most popular machines intended for therapeutic purposes, and having examined several others, believes this to be incomparably the best in use. Dr. Kidder has, with most laudable zeal, pressed on his researches and improvements in the manufacture of these instruments, until there seems to be scarcely anything more in them to be desired. They are certainly not equalled by any others in America, and probably not surpassed, if equalled, by any in the world.

D. C. PLAINFIELD, ILL., June, 1869.










Considerable parts of this book have been written for the unlearned. For the scholarly reader such parts, of course, would be wholly superfluous; yet it is hoped that they to whom these are familiar will be patient in passing through them for the sake of others to whom they may be instructive. Other parts, again, it is believed, will be found new to the most of even educated minds. But men of the largest intellectual attainments are commonly the most docile. Such men, meeting this little work, will not shrink from a candid examination of its contents merely on account of their comparative novelty, nor because the views expressed differ essentially from those usually held by the medical faculty. The candid, yet critical, attention of such gentlemen, the author especially solicits. He assures them that he does not write at random, but from careful research and practical experience. His philosophic theories he offers only for what they are worth. His principles of practice he believes to be scientifically correct and of great value.

Let it not be supposed that the author, in this work, assumes a belligerent attitude towards the members of the medical profession. Although anxious to modify and elevate their estimate of electricity as a remedial agent, and to improve their methods of using it, he has no sympathy with those who profess to believe, and who assert, that medicines of the apothecary never effect the cure of disease; that where they are thought to cure, they simply do not kill; and who contend that the patient would have recovered quicker and better to have taken no medicine at all. He knows that such allegations are false, as they are extravagant; and so does every candid and unprejudiced observer whose experience has given him ordinary opportunities to judge. The writer believes it can be perfectly demonstrated that the advancement of medical science in modern times—say within the last two or three hundred years—has served to essentially prolong the average term of human life. The world owes to medical instructors and practitioners a debt of gratitude which can never be paid. Their laborious and often perilous research in the fields of their profession, and their untiring assiduity in the application of their science and skill to the relief of human suffering, entitle them to a degree of confidence and affectionate esteem which few other classes of public servants can rightly claim. For one, the author of this little book most sincerely concedes to them, as a body, his confidence, his sympathy, and his grateful respect. And the most that he is willing to say to their discredit, (if it be so construed), is that he regards them as having not yet attained perfection in their high profession, and as not being generally as willing as they should be to examine fairly into the alleged merits of remedial agents and improved principles of practice, (claimed to be such), when brought forward by intelligent, cultivated and respectable men, outside of "the regular profession." This is said at the same time that the author gives much weight to their commonly offered defense, viz: that, in the midst of professional engagements, they have not always the time to spare for such examination; and that, since the most of alleged improvements in the healing art, particularly of those introduced by persons who have not received a regular medical education, sooner or later prove themselves to be worthless, the presumption—though not the certainty—is, whenever a new agent, or a new method or principle is proposed by an "outsider," that this, too, if not willful charlatanism, is a mistake; and therefore, the sooner it comes to an end the better it will be for the public health, and that neglect is the surest way to kill it.

But the medical faculty have too widely employed electricity in the treatment of disease, and that with too frequent success, to admit of its being denied a place among important therapeutic agents by any respectable practitioner. The only questions concerning it now are those which relate to the versatility of its power, the scope of its useful applicability, and the principles which should guide in the administration of it. The general subject embraced in these questions is one in which suffering humanity has a right to claim that physicians shall be at home.

And yet it will scarcely be denied that, in the exhibition of electricity, more than of almost any other therapeutic agent, medical practitioners feel incertitude as to what shall be its effect. Now and then it acts as they expected it to do; sometimes it pleasantly surprises them; oftener it offensively disappoints them. They find it unreliable. Of other remedial agents, they commonly know, before administering them, what sort of effect will be produced; but in employing this, while they have hope, they are generally more or less in doubt. They regard it as a stimulant; although its action on the living organism appears to them to be largely veiled in mystery. In many cases of disease, particularly those of acutely inflammatory or febrile character, they judge it to be not at all indicated. To administer it in a case of bilious or typhoid fever, or in a case of pneumonia, pleuritis, gastritis, inflammatory rheumatism, or acute, and especially epidemic or malignant dysentery, or in a case of pulmonary phthisis, would probably be viewed by the most of physicians as the rashest empiricism, if not the next thing to madness. The idea of producing antagonistic effects with it at will, they would, for the most part, esteem preposterous. Rather, perhaps, it may be said of the majority of medical practitioners that such an idea has never entered their minds; so foreign is it to their conceptions of truth and propriety. But, at whatever risk of discredit or censure, the writer of the present volume avers that this idea is both scientifically sound and of every day's practical verification. The various and opposite forms of disease—acute and chronic, hypersthenic and asthenic—are habitually treated and cured, in his own practice and that of his students, by electricity alone.

But "cui bono?" may be asked. "What if it be true that these things can be done with electricity? They are also done with medicines, which are more quickly and conveniently administered, and usually less annoying to the patient. What, therefore, is the practical utility of your electric system above the ordinary practice, especially if we include, in the latter, electrical treatment as occasionally employed by the most of respectable physicians?"

This is the important question—that to which the author desires to call particular attention. He, therefore, answers:

First.—It is manifestly true that the most of diseases, (the exceptions are comparatively few), can be cured by the use of medicines. It is also true that these can generally be administered with more convenience and less expenditure of time to the practitioner than electricity; and this is a great advantage. The author is often asked if he thinks his electric system will ever supersede the use of medicines. His answer is uniformly, "No." It takes too much time for that. Where the population is crowded, as in cities and large towns, it is often the case, especially in times of prevailing epidemic, that a physician can prescribe medicine for half a dozen or more patients in the time required to treat one electrically. To reject medicines and rely alone on electricity would, in periods and places of prevailing sickness, leave many sufferers without professional service, or would require that the proportion of doctors to the whole population should be largely increased—a thing certainly not often to be desired. So much, candor must concede.

Second.—It is not quite true that medicines are usually less annoying to the patient than electricity as we use it. As administered by others, it is often nearly intolerable. In our hands, on the contrary, it seldom inflicts any pain or distress, and almost invariably becomes agreeable to the patient after a very few applications. We have no occasion to torture our patients in order to cure them. But the cases are comparatively rare where medicines are not offensive; commonly they are excessively so.

Third.—In not a few diseases, and these among the most dangerous or distressful, the electric current, employed according to the system here taught, is able to reach, control and cure, with facility, where medicines are but slowly, and in most instances imperfectly successful, or fail altogether. This is said, or meant to be said, not invidiously nor boastingly, but in the candid utterance of a great and practically demonstrated truth. It is, perhaps, most often exemplified in neuralgic, rheumatic and paralytic affections. The author is happy to acknowledge that these diseases are frequently mitigated, and occasionally cured, by means of electrical treatment administered by those who know nothing of the system here taught. But the important fact is, in their hands there is no certainty as to the effect before trial. Under this system, the kind of effect is as certainly known before as after the trial, since it can be made one thing or another at will.

Cases are not unfrequently presented of inflammatory action, more especially where it is internal—traumatic cases and others—which the practitioner finds it impossible to subdue with medicine. But, with a proper knowledge of the system herein taught, he has at his command a power with which he can control such cases with almost infallible certainty, provided he can get access to them within reasonable time. The same may be said of fevers, particularly those occasioned by miasmatic or infectious virus. These are often difficult to manage by the use of medicine, and not seldom prove fatal, in spite of the best talent and skill which the profession can afford. But the electric current, rightly selected and scientifically applied, destroys or neutralizes the virus and restores the normal polarization, and so effects a cure.

Neuralgic affections are frequently found difficult, or even impossible, to be cured by means of medicines, and yet, in the very same cases, these affections yield and disappear with comparative facility when brought under the electric current, judiciously applied, according to the principles of this new system.

Chronic cases, and others of an asthenic character, are often very stubborn under the medicines of pharmacy, and are commonly the dread of physicians; yet, under scientific treatment by electricity, they rarely fail to lose their formidable character and to become obedient to the remedial agent.

Fourth.—In enumerating a few of the peculiar advantages of this system, I should add that it corrects the usual electric practice of the profession, so far as they become acquainted with it. As before intimated, the mass of physicians at present, who treat more or less electrically, do so with no knowledge, or next to none, of the great versatility of action of which the electric current is capable. They know nothing of the electrical polarization of the living organism in health, nor how it is variously affected in disease. The particular electrical state of the diseased organs is a matter foreign to their minds. They appear to suppose the point to be immediately aimed at as a means of cure is to get the electricity from the machine into the affected part or parts; whereas it should be to change, by correction, the polarization of the part or parts; and, if there be virus present, to neutralize that. Equally unacquainted are they generally with the diverse physiological action of the several modifications of the electric force—galvanism, magnetism, faradism, and frictional electricity. This, in their candor, they commonly acknowledge. And, for the most part, they are little or nothing better acquainted with the distinctive effects on the system of the positive and negative poles of the instrument. There is, therefore, plainly no science in their electrical practice. Every thing is done at random—all is empirical.

But the system here taught opens the light upon all of these points. For practical purposes, at least, it is, in its essential features, the only system of electrical therapeutics which has in it any real merit—the only system which can be true. By this, the writer does not mean to assert, or to imply, that the little book now before the reader contains no error, either in respect to theory or practice. In this early stage of our system's history, it would be remarkable if it did not contain errors in both these respects. But what it is intended to affirm is, that the book presents the cardinal features of a true, and the only possibly true, system of electrical practice. All possibly true systems of geometry must necessarily be essentially the same; and so, too, all possibly true systems of electrical medication must be essentially one. That one system, it is candidly and confidently believed, is briefly contained in the present little volume.




On opening the machine-box, as it comes from the manufacturer, there will be found a glass bottle, intended to hold the battery fluid when not in use; a glass cup or jar, to serve as the battery cell; a pair of insulated metallic conducting cords; two tin electrodes; a brass clamp; and, under the helix-box, (which raise), the battery metals and two connecting wires to unite the battery with the helix.

To put the machine in working condition—ready for use—proceed, step by step, as follows, viz: Prepare the Battery Fluid by mixing twelve parts, by measure, of water with one part of sulphuric acid, (good commercial acid is pure enough), sufficient to fill the cell two-thirds or three-fourths full, and place in it about one-third of an ounce of quicksilver.

Next, place the platina plate between the two zinc plates, standing on their legs upon a table before you; and bring the top of the wooden bar (in a groove of which the platina is set) up flush with the top of the zinc plates. Let the brass post, standing on the top of this bar and soldered to the platina plate below, be toward the left-hand side. Then take the brass clamp and place it across the top of these metallic plates, a little to the right of the brass post, or about midway between the right and left sides, having its thumb-screw towards you, and with it screw the three plates firmly together. The platina is shorter than the zincs, to prevent its reaching the quicksilver in the bottom of the cell; and the wax balls on its sides are to insulate it from the zinc plates. This platina should never be allowed to touch the mercury or the zinc.

Let the plates, properly screwed together, be now placed in the cell with the Battery Fluid. Then, with the two copper connecting-wires, connect the post which stands on the wooden bar above the platina with the post stamped P on the helix-box, and the brass clamp N with the post N on the helix-box.

If, now, the screws regulating the vibrating armature be in perfect adjustment, the current will commence to run, with a buzzing sound; or it may be made to start by touching the hammer-like head of the flat steel spring. If not, the screws may be rightly adjusted in the following way: The top screw, which at its lower point is tipped with a small coil of platina wire, should be made to press delicately upon the center of the little iron plate on the upper side of the spring, so as to bear the latter down very slightly. Then raise or depress the screw-magnet, which turns up or down under the hammer, like the seat of a piano-stool, until the vibration of the spring commences. The rapidity of the vibrations, by which is secured the alternate closing and breaking of the electric circuit (or rather what, in practical effect, is equivalent to this—the direct and reverse action of the current in alternation) is increased by raising the screw-magnet and diminished by lowering it. When it is raised above what is required for ordinary use, the noise becomes too loud and harsh for many nervous patients to bear. It should then be depressed a little.

With respect to curative power, I have discovered but little perceptible difference, produced by the various degrees of rapidity in the vibrations, effected within the range of this magnet.

The force of the current is regulated by means of a tubular magnet, which slides over the helix, and is called the plunger. It is approached under a brass cap at the right-hand end of the machine. The plunger is withdrawn, more or less, to increase the force; pushed in to diminish it. If in any case the current can not be softened sufficiently with the plunger, the quantity of battery fluid in use must be made less.

After a time the current will become weak, and fail to run well. Then renew the battery fluid. When the quicksilver is all taken up by the zinc plates, the machine may be run for a while without adding more. But after it has considerably disappeared from the inside surface of the zinc plates, the latter will begin to show more rapid corrosion, while the current will be less. Then let a small quantity of quicksilver—one-fourth to one-third of an ounce—again be placed in the fluid.

When the machine is not in use, let the metals be removed from the fluid; and, if not to be soon again used, let them be rinsed with water, carefully avoiding to wet the wooden bar in which the platina is set.

The posts, with which the conducting-cords are to be connected, are arranged in a row near the front of the helix-box, and are marked A, B, C, D. Either two of these posts may be used to obtain a current; and since they admit of six varying combinations, six different currents are afforded by the machine, viz: the A B current, the A C current, the A D current, the B C current, the B D current, and the C D current. Whichever current is used, it may always be known which of the two posts employed is the positive and which the negative, by observing the letters stamped upon their tops. The one whose letter comes first in the order of the alphabet is positive; the other is negative. Also, the one standing towards the left hand is positive, and that at the right hand is negative. The qualities of the several currents are stated in a descriptive paper on the inside of the lid of the machine, which see. It will there be found that three of the currents—viz, the A B, the A C and the A D currents—are electrolytic: that is, dissolving by electric action. These electrolytic currents require to be used—one or another of them—whenever any chemical action is needed; as, in decomposing or neutralizing virus in the system, destroying cancers, reducing glands when chronically enlarged, removing tumors or other abnormal growths, and in treating old ulcers and chronic irritation of mucous membranes. The other three, being Faradaic or induction currents, and having no perceptibly chemical action, are used where only change of electro-vital polarization is required. These Faradaic currents differ from each other in respect to being concentrative or diffusive in their effects, and in their sensational force. B C is concentrative and delicately sensational. C D is also concentrative, though less so than B C, and is more strongly sensational. B D is diffusive, and the most energetically sensational of the three.


It may be proper, in this place, to spend a few words upon electrical polarization in general.

Electrical polarity may be defined as a characteristic of the electric or magnetic fluid, by virtue of which its opposite qualities, as those of attraction and repulsion towards the same object, are manifested in opposite parts of the electric or magnetic body. These opposite parts are called the poles of the body, as the positive and negative poles. The difference between the positive and negative poles is believed to be that of plus and minus—plus being positive and minus negative. This is the Franklinian view, and, if I mistake not, is the one most in favor with men of science at the present day. This view supposes that the electricity or magnetism arranges itself in maximum quantity and intensity at the one extremity or pole of the magnetized body, and in minimum quantity and intensity at the opposite extremity or pole; and that, between these points—the maximum and the minimum—the fluid is distributed, in respect to quantity and intensity, upon a scale of regular graduation from the one to the other. The idea may be represented by a line, commencing in a point at the one end, and extending, with regularly increasing breadth, to the other end. The larger end would represent the positive pole, and the smaller, the negative pole. Or perhaps a better representation of the magnet would be a line of equal breadth from end to end, but having the one end white, or slightly tinted, say, with red, and the color gradually and regularly increasing in strength to the other end, where it becomes a deep scarlet. Let the coloring-matter represent the magnetism in the body charged, and we have the magnet illustrated in its polarization: the deep-red end is the positive pole, and the white or faintly-colored end is the negative pole.

It is a law of polarization that the positive poles of different magnets repel each other, and the negative poles repel each other; while positive and negative poles attract each other. The same law of polarization rules in electric or magnetic currents as in magnets at rest.


The Electric Circuit is made up of any thing and every thing which serves to conduct the electric current in its passage—outward and returning—from where it leaves the inner surfaces of the zinc plates in the battery cell to where it comes back again to the outer surfaces of the same plates. When the conducting-cords are not attached to the machine, or when the communication between the cords is not complete, if the machine be running, the circuit is then composed of the battery fluid, the platina plate, the posts, the connecting-wires, which unite the battery with the helix, the helical wires, and their appendages for the vibrating action. But when a patient is under treatment, the conducting-cords, the electrodes, and so much of the patient's person as is traversed by the current while passing from the positive electrode through to the negative electrode, are also included in the whole circuit. And whatever elements may serve to conduct the current in any part of its circuit—be they metal, fluid, nerve, muscle, or bone—the same are all, for the time, component parts of one complete magnet, which, in all its parts, is subject to the law of polarization, precisely as if it were one magnetized bar of steel. Usually, however, it is sufficient for practical purposes to contemplate the circuit as consisting only of that which the current passes through in going from the point where it leaves the positive post and enters into the negative cord, around to the point where it leaves the positive cord and enters into the negative post.


I have said, in effect, a little above, that, while the current is running, the entire circuit is one complete magnet, which extends from the inner or positive sides of the zinc plates, where the current commences, all the way around to the outer or negative aides of the zinc plates, to which it returns. Viewed in this light its negative pole or end is the battery fluid, next to the positive surfaces of the zinc plates, and its positive pole or end is the brass clamp which, holding the metals together, is in contact with the outer and negative surfaces of the zincs.

But, for practical purposes, it is sufficiently exact to consider the magnetic circuit as extending only from the positive post around through the conducting cords, the electrodes and the person of the patient to the negative post. The negative end or pole of this magnet is the wire end of the cord placed in the positive post, and the positive end or pole is the wire end of the cord placed in the negative post.

But any magnet may be viewed either as one whole, or be conceived as composed of a succession of shorter magnets placed end to end. If we view it as one entire magnet, we call the end in which the magnetic essence is in greatest quantity the positive end, and the end where it is in least quantity the negative end. But if we imagine the one whole magnet as being divided up into several sections, then we conceive of each section as a distinct magnet, having its own positive and negative poles. And, all the way through, these sectional magnets will be arranged with the positive pole of the one joined to the negative pole of the next in advance of it.

It is just so in respect to the magnetic circuit of a moving current. The whole circuit, as before remarked, is in reality one long magnet. But in applying the terms positive and negative in our practice we often view the whole circuit—the one long magnet—as composed of a series of shorter ones, arranged with positive and negative ends in contact; and all the way the current in each section is supposed to be running from the positive pole of the magnet behind to the negative pole of the magnet before.

We consider the circuit, from the positive post around to the negative post, as composed of three magnets, as follows: Magnet No. 1, which extends from the positive post, along the cord and electrode, to the body of the patient, where the positive electrode is placed. The negative pole of this magnet is the wire end of the cord placed in the positive post, and its positive pole in the positive electrode placed upon the person of the patient. No. 2, which is composed of the parts of the patient traversed by the current between the two electrodes. Its negative end or pole is the part in contact with the positive pole of magnet No. 1, and its positive pole is the part in contact with the negative pole of magnet No. 3. No. 3 extends from the positive pole of No. 2, through the electrode and along the cord, to the negative post. Its negative pole is the negative electrode in contact with the positive end or pole of magnet No. 2, and its positive pole is the wire end of the cord in the negative post.

Since in every magnet the magnetic fluid is supposed to be regularly graduated from minimum quantity in the negative end to maximum quantity in the positive end, this is true in respect to the one magnet, consisting of the whole magnetic circuit, as well as in respect to each one of the sectional series. Consequently there must be the same quantity of magnetism in each negative pole of the sections as there is in the positive pole of the section immediately behind it. And the magnetism of the whole circuit between the positive and the negative posts is in its least volume next to the positive post, and in fullest volume next to the negative post. If we consider the circuit as divided into two equal halves, the negative half is plainly that which joins the positive post, and the positive half that which joins the negative post.

From this it will be seen that what in practice are designated as the positive and negative posts, and also positive and negative poles or electrodes are not such in relation to each other, but the reverse of it; that is to say, the positive post is not positive in relation to the negative post, but is negative to it; and the positive electrode or pole is not positive in relation to the negative electrode, but negative to it. The positive post, like the positive electrode, is called positive, because it is the positive end of the sectional magnet next behind it. And the negative post, as also the negative electrode, is called negative because it is the negative end of the sectional magnet next in advance of it.


The central point of the circuit—that point which divides between its positive and negative halves—is reckoned, in practice, to be the midway point in the line over which the current passes, in its whole course from the positive post around to the negative post. When the cords are of equal length, this point will always be in the person of the patient, about midway between the parts where the two electrodes are applied. This central point, or "point of centrality," is practically neuter—neither positive nor negative; and upon the two opposite halves of the circuit, the positive and negative qualities of the current are in greatest force nearest to the posts, and in least force nearest to the central point. At this point they cease altogether, and the central point is neuter.

It may, perhaps, be observed that, in apparent contradiction of this statement, the sensational effect of the current on the negative half of the circuit is least nearest to the positive post, and becomes regularly greater as the current advances towards the central point; and that at this point it is greater than at any other point between this and the positive post. To relieve this seeming contradiction, it is only necessary to consider that, in fact, the positive state on the negative half of the current does increase regularly from the positive post to the central point. But that which is the increase of the positive state is the decrease of the negative state. So it is still true that on the negative half of the circuit, the negative qualities diminish as we advance towards the central point just as on the positive half, the positive qualities diminish regularly towards the central point, as stated above.


The current is that moving electric essence which traverses the circuit. The course of the current is always from the positive to the negative. It leaves the machine at the positive post, where it enters the cord which holds the positive electrode or pole. Thence it advances around the circuit, going out from the opposite cord where that connects with the negative post. The forward end of the current is its positive end; the rear, of course, is its negative end. At its forward end it is in its greatest volume. At its rear end the volume is least. At the central point of its circuit there is the mean quantity—the average volume. And because the positive and negative forces on either side exactly balance each other upon the central point, therefore this point is practically neuter—neither positive nor negative.


In the present stage of electric science, the conviction has become very general among experimenters that galvanism, magnetism, faradism, frictional electricity and the electricity of the storm-cloud are, in their essential nature, one and the same; being diversified in appearance and effects by the different modes and circumstances of their development. This conviction has been reached in various ways; but chiefly, perhaps, by observing the many analogies between the phenomena of these several forces, and also by the fact that each of them can be made to produce or be produced by one or more of the others. But I must forego any detailed discussion of this matter, since my limits will not admit of it, and shall assume that these apparently several agents are but modifications of the same generic force.

There are two other phases or modifications of the electric principle, as I judge them to be, which are not so generally classed here. I refer to the forces of animal and vegetable vitality, as viewed in the next section.


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, and 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.


When we have settled upon the position that the electricity of the heavens and of the artificial machine are identical, and that their identity is essentially one with galvanism, magnetism, the electro-vital fluid of animal and the life-force of the vegetable kingdoms, it requires no extravagant imagination, nor remarkable degree of enthusiastic credulity, to suppose that all the forms of physical attraction and repulsion are due, under God, to the diversified modifications of the same all-pervading agent—ELECTRICITY. Indeed, for myself, I feel no hesitation in expressing it as my belief that electricity, in one phase or another, and controlled only by WILL, is the grand motive-power of the universe. I believe that, in the form of electro-vital fluid, the great Creator employs it as His immediate agent to carry on all the functions of animal life; and that, in respect to voluntary functions, He subordinates it as a servant to the will of the creature, to effect such cerebral action and such muscular contractions as are demanded by the creature's volitions. I am disposed to think that, by the omnipotent power of His will, He controls and uses electricity, in its various modifications, as the immediate moving-force by which He accomplishes all the changes in the physical universe. It is fast becoming a generally-received opinion among modern savans, that every body in nature is really magnetic, more or less; and that all visible or sensible changes are but the result of changing poles. Chemical affinities and revulsions are believed to be only the more delicate forms of electrical attraction and repulsion; the ultimate particles of matter, no less than matter in masses, being subject to the control of electrical laws. The imponderable agents, light and caloric, under the ingenious tests of scientific scrutiny, are beginning to give some very decided indications of being simply electric phenomena. Indeed, the doctrine or theory that supposes caloric to be simply atomic motion is even now being very generally accepted by the scientific world. And that motion in the atoms of a body which causes in us the sensation of heat is probably electric motion. And permit me to observe that, though the operations of nature seem, at first thought, to be wonderfully complex and mysterious, yet if the views here presented be correct, the marvel is changed; and we are brought to a profound admiration of the simplicity of the means by which the Almighty conducts His material operations. A single agent made to perform processes so infinitely numerous, diversified and apparently complex! How amazing! Simplicity in complexity!—majestic, like the mind of God.


Let the question now be raised—What is man? The answer will have much to do with the remedial system which I aim to teach. For this reason it is thus early introduced.

My answer to the above question is as follows: Man is a threefold being, composed of a body material, a body electrical, and a spirit rational and indestructible.

Let the elements of this definition be a little amplified:

1. The material body. This is composed of various metals, earths, carbon, phosphorus, and gases. I need not go into a representation of their multiplied and curious combinations to form the many parts of the body complete. But these are the ultimate elements; and a most superb and wonderful structure they here compose. Yet, notwithstanding all the manifest skillfulness of its contrivance, and the power of its accomplishment, and the niceness and beauty of its execution, it were a useless display if unaccompanied with the invisible agents which compose the two other grand constituents of man, to wit: the body electrical and the spirit, or mind. Without these, it would quickly fall into decay, as we see it when deprived of them, and would be resolved into its original elements again. But to our gross material bodies the Creator has added,

2. The body electrical. By this, I mean that which has commonly been termed "nervous influence," "nervous fluid," "nervo-vital fluid," and "nervo-electric fluid." I object, however, to each and all of these designations. They are too restricted and specific. They all seem to imply that it is an agent or influence which appertains especially to the nervous system; whereas the entire organism is under its pervading force. I do not doubt but its chief action is in and through the nervous system; but it also pervades and, as I think, vitalizes the whole body. The nervous system seems to be created as one principal means for its replenishment,[A] and to serve as the medium of its ministrations to the body at large. I choose to term it electro-vital fluid, or electro-vitality. My reasons for so designating it are the following: (1) It is demonstrably electrical in its nature. (2) It appears to be identified, or at least connected immediately, with the vitalization of the body. (3) I wish, by its name, to distinguish it from mental vitality, or the vitality of spirit. Whether, as a peculiar manifestation of the electric principle, it vitalizes by its own nature and action solely, or whether it be charged with another mysterious element—a life-force—and vitalizes by ministering the latter to the material organism, I will not positively affirm. Whichever it be, the name I assign to it seems sufficiently appropriate. But I strongly incline to the theory that this electro-vital principle does itself, by virtue of its own nature, vitalize the system. In other words, I am disposed to think that God makes it the immediate agent of vitalization; having constituted it the vis vitae of both the animal and the vegetable kingdoms. Nor does this idea, as I conceive, necessarily conflict at all with the doctrine of cell-life, as maintained by the best physiologists of the present day. I also sometimes style this electro-vital element the body electrical, because it is certainly an entity, coextensive with and, in greater or less force, wholly pervading the visible, material body.

At this point I will take the liberty to introduce, although somewhat digressively, a few thoughts on the DISTINCTIONS OF VITALITY OR LIFE.

There are, as I suppose, the following several kinds of life: (1) Spirit life; (2) Moral life; (3) Electric life.

(1.) There is spirit life. And here are to be made several subdivisions.

[1.] Uncreated spirit life. This is the life of God. Of the nature of the Divine Essence we know nothing; yet that God is a real, living entity, we do know. My own conviction is that the divine essence and the divine life are identical; that God, a spirit, is necessary, infinite, conscious VITALITY—the voluntary Originator of all existencies besides himself. But as to what is the essential nature of this vitality—this eternal spirit-life—we can have no conception, only that this life is God.

[2.] Created spirit-life. And here we make another subdivision.

(a) The life of created immortal spirit. This is a rational, intelligent entity, representing the spirit of man and of unembodied, created intelligences above him. This spirit God created as it pleased him—"in his own likeness"—a living, indestructible essence; and, as I suppose, its essence and its life the same.

(b) The life of created mortal spirit, as the spirit of the beast. Of the intrinsic essence of this spirit, we are also necessarily ignorant. Yet, of its attributes we know that it has consciousness, sensibility, and will. Of its life we know as little as of its essence; both of which, however, as I conjecture, are also one and the same—the spirit substance being itself essentially vital.

(2.) We pass next to moral life. This life is identical with holiness—the very opposite of that defilement that characterizes moral death, which is a state of sin. But let me again subdivide.

[1.] As to the moral life of God, it consists in his infinite moral purity—his veracity, justice and benevolence or love—qualities which, in their combination make up his holiness.

[2.] The moral life of man, as also of other rational creatures. This consists in his sympathy of spirit with God in respect to those pure qualities which constitute the Divine holiness.

(3.) Finally, there is electric or physical life. But here again there are varieties.

[1.] There is animal life, as of man and the lower animals. This I have already represented as consisting in the electro-vital force.

[2.] Vegetable life. This is another modification of the same essential principle—electro-vitality.

But now, to return to the physical or animal life of man—the electro-vital element. While this is in such immediate relation to the visible body on the one hand, it holds, also, on the other hand, an immediate relation to the mental part, both of man and of the other animated beings of earth. It serves to transmit, through the nervous system to the mind, all sensations and impressions from the outer world. It, moreover, receives from the mind the action of its volitions and imaginary conceptions, and conveys through the nerves the impressions or impulsions thus obtained to the various parts of the body, and there secures the fulfillment of the mind's behests. It appears to be only in this way that communication is had between the mind and its outer body. The natures of spirit and of gross matter are so totally unlike, that it seems impracticable for the mind and body to come into immediate mutual relation, or to act reciprocally, without the aid of a medium—ethereal, semi-material and semi-spiritual, such as is the electro-vital fluid. And the Creator has accordingly provided this mysterious, invisible medium between the two, and thus, in a degree, extended man's likeness to himself by making him a trinity in unity.

3. The mind or spirit. This is immeasurably the highest and most important constituent of man. His body material may fall back to dust. His body electrical may be reabsorbed in the great ocean of natural electricity that fills the earth and the heavens. But his mind is immortal. His spirit, made in the divine image, lives and acts, thinks and feels, independently of every other existence save Him from whom its being came. While in connection with its visible body, its good or ill, its bliss or woe, has, indeed, much to do with its bodily state. But, when separated from this body, its high and more independent existence is at once asserted; and then its good or ill are determined by its Author only in accordance with the workings and affections within itself. A spiritual and indestructible being like its Creator, it can never cease to be while he exists.

But our present concern is with the mind in its relation to that electro-vital medium between it and the body, and to the body itself. The mind's influence upon both of these lower parts of the entire man is truly wonderful, although perceptible mostly on the material body. Few persons are aware how much the state of the mind affects the bodily health, although the degree is often very great. Yet this is done by the mind's action, first on the electro-vital functions, and through these, by way of the nerves, upon the bodily tissue. Changes in the mental states will, in this way, frequently produce changed polarization in the physical organs, and thus determine infallibly the matter of health or disease. So, too, the condition of the bodily health will often determine irresistibly the mental state. Whatever bodily changes affect the polarization of the electro-vital medium in any part of the organism, do thereby produce corresponding changes in the mind.

These views of the reciprocal action between mind and body, through the medium of the electro-vital element, may serve to explain those psychological wonders exhibited in the cure of diseases by the imagination, as well as in diseases and even death induced by the imagination. I would much like to unfold and illustrate this bearing of the subject; and, also, in the light of it, to show the philosophy of one mind acting intelligibly on another mind, with, and even without, the aid of the physical organs, as is sometimes seen in the facts of mesmerism. This I have done in my written lectures, for the instruction of classes; but my limits will not admit of it here.

There is another thought which I will offer in this connection. I maintain that all functional action of our bodily organism, ab initio, is conducted by thinking mind, through the medium of organic electricity or the electro-vital fluid. Every organ as a whole, and every life-cell in detail, is charged with this active principle. I believe that every one of then is controlled and guided incessantly in its propagating, organizing and entire functional force by intelligent mind, acting through this wonder-working agent—the electro-vital fluid. In respect to our voluntary exercises, this organic electrical force is made subject to our own mental activities, and executes its office upon the bodily organism mainly through the medium of the nerves. But, as regards all the involuntary functions, I believe that control is exercised directly by the omniscient and all-pervading God, although in accordance with his own established laws.

Once more of the mind let me remark, that consciousness, sensation, and will belong to it alone. The body never thinks nor feels; nor does the organic electricity within it. The popular idea, especially with the less educated masses, is that, if a man burn his finger, it is the finger that smarts. But this can not be true. Pain can exist only where consciousness is. And there is no consciousness in the finger, nor in any material part. Only the mind is conscious of existence, even; and hence only the mind can be conscious of pleasure or pain. If a limb be paralyzed, by interrupting in any way the flow of the electro-vital fluid through its nerves, and thus depriving the mind of its medium of communication with it, you may burn that limb to a crisp and the subject will feel no pain. When you burn your finger or break your arm, you disturb the action of the electro-vitality in the injured part, deranging its poles. This electric agent instantly communicates its disturbance along the nerves to the brain, where it reports to the mind and tells where the disturbance is. The conscious mind takes cognizance of the fact and feels distress.


It may, by some, be objected that, if we regard sensation as existing only in the mind, as affirmed above, then we must concede mind to the lower animal tribes, since they are subjects of consciousness, sensation and will, as truly as ourselves. I admit this necessity, and unhesitatingly take the position, as has been already done in the classification of minds, that the lower animals are in fact endowed with a something higher and more spiritual than their material bodies or their animal vitality—something which bears distinguishing characteristics of mind. I would not, however, be understood to say, or to imply, that they possess all the characteristics of our minds, even in a rudimental degree. I do not believe they do. My theory does not accord to them either reason or immortality. Yet, in respect to the latter, my views are less decisive, and my utterances usually more reserved. But I think their minds may, and probably do, perish with their bodies. Nevertheless, the existence of consciousness, sensation and will, in any orders, does evidently presuppose some sort of mental constitution. And such mental structure, in them as well as in us, must be distinct from and superior to the animal vitality—compelling service from the latter, and using it as a medium for communicating with the body, and with the outer world in general.


As to the vegetable kingdom, there is here, so far as we can discover, only a duality of principle, viz: the material body and a modified phase of electro-vitality. These component parts appear to sustain to each other, in the vegetable, relations quite analogous to those of the corresponding parts in the animal. But here the mental part is wanting; and consequently there is no consciousness, sensation, nor will; and the electro-vital action is guided in its elaborate and beautiful operations for the forming and developing of the plant, and in all its vital functions, by the all-pervading mind of God.


The electro-vital fluid, in the animal economy, is subject to the same principles of polarization as the magnetic current from the artificial machine, or the magnetism of the bar-magnet. In the material organism of man, the great nerve-centers—the brain, the spinal cord, and the ganglions—appear to act the part of fixed magnets, charged with the electro-vital fluid. Indeed, there is much reason to believe that this fluid is elaborated within these nerve-centers—more especially within the brain—from the inorganic electricity of the outer world, which is supplied through the lungs in respiration, and conducted thence to these laboratories by a remarkably interesting process—a process which I have not room here to describe, but which I have drawn out in detail in a manuscript lecture on the circulation of the blood, for my classes, and which may some day see the light. These nerve-centers, viewed as magnets of electro-vitality, require to be regarded as having each a positive nucleus in the interior, on which are ranged the negative ends of the currents which go out from this positive nucleus in every direction to the surface of the medullary organ—so radiating, as it were, from center to periphery. And the nerve-lines and ramifications which issue from these great nerve-centers are polarized evidently in the same way—the electro-vital fluid being disposed with its negative ends to the positive surfaces of the nerve-centers, and its positive or plus ends to the "vital organs," and especially to the surfaces of the organism as a whole. There are many other polarizations in the human system, subordinate to those mentioned above; but I have no room to speak of them in detail.


There are two, and only two, primary classes of disease—those in which the electro-vital force is abnormally positive, and those where it is preternaturally negative. The former class comprises every variety and phase of hypersthenia, and the latter, every sort and degree of anaesthesia, or rather, of azooedynamia. Inflammation may be taken as a general representative of the positive or hypersthenic class—those forms of disease in which there is too much electro-vitality, or in which the vital force may be said to be too active. Paralysis may stand as a general representative of the negative or azooedynamic class—those in which the vital action is too low or weak.


In every part of the animal economy, polar derangements in the electro-vital principle are liable to occur. These derangements are always the real foundation of disease. They may be occasioned by a thousand agencies, which act as the procuring cause of disease; but the proximate and sustaining cause is polar disturbance—derangement of the electro-vital poles. Parts which, in health, are relatively positive, may become negative, and that which should be negative may become positive. Or again, a part, naturally positive to its counterpart, may become excessively so, and that which should be relatively negative may become negative to a morbid degree.

To correct these polar disturbances and restore the normal polarization, is to cure the complaint. This is, under the treatment of most physicians, often accomplished by the use of medicines, and by mechanical or surgical agency. We accomplish it by the proper application of the poles of our electrical apparatus. In cases where there is virus to be destroyed, or abnormal growths to be removed, we also secure the chemical action appropriate to these ends by the proper selection of our current. It often happens that mechanical or surgical action is demanded. In many such cases, we do not profess to secure normal polarization and consequent cure by means of electricity alone. Yet, in a large proportion of the cases where mechanical or surgical agency is usually thought to be indispensable, we are able to cure by electric action only, since by it we can exert very considerable mechanical force at will; and can also, in many instances, attain much more happily, by means of electricity, the very ends or the best ends which would be aimed at by skillful surgical operations.



When the conducting cords are of equal length, as commonly they should be, each of the two poles or electrodes produces a polar effect in the patient directly the opposite of that produced by the other. Also, at any point in either half of the circuit, if it be within the person of the patient, the polar effect produced is the very reverse of what is experienced at the corresponding point in the other half of the circuit. And further; each half of the current produces a polar effect, at every point in the parts of the patient through which it runs, the same in kind, though differing in degree, as is produced immediately under the pole or electrode with which it is connected; yet an effect antagonistic to that which is produced under the other pole, or at the corresponding point in the other half of the current.


From the above observations, it will be plain that, when we wish to bring a diseased organ under the influence of the positive pole, we must carefully place our electrodes so that none of the organ, or none of the diseased part of it, shall appear on the positive[B] side of the central point of the circuit; it being understood that the current moves as nearly in direct lines as the best conducting medium will admit. Or again, if it be desired to bring a diseased organ, or any extended part of it, under the influence of the negative pole, we must first calculate in placing our electrodes about where the central point will come, and then so apply them that no part of the lesion or disease shall appear on the negative[B] side of the central point; otherwise so much of it as lies on that side will come under the force of the wrong pole, and thus be affected in a way the opposite of what was intended. The characteristic influence of each pole is felt throughout its own half of the circuit.


I have said that every disease is preternaturally either positive or negative. I have further said, that the application of either pole to a given part produces an effect the opposite of what would be produced in the same part by a reversal of the poles. The way is now prepared for me to announce THE CENTRAL PRINCIPLE of our system of practice. The reader will bear in mind that all acutely inflammatory or hypersthenic affections are electrically positive in excess—having too much vital action—being overcharged with the electro-vital fluid; and that all paralytic diseases, or those of a sluggish, azooedynamic character, are electrically negative—having too little electro-vital fluid—too little vital action. It is a universal law of electricity that positives repel each other, and that negatives repel each other; but that positives and negatives attract each other. This is a principle of electric action everywhere known, where any thing is known on the subject. We appropriate it practically to therapeutic purposes. Therefore, when I wish to repress or repel inflammation, which is electrically positive in excess, I put the positive pole to it; or, at least, I bring it under that half of the circuit with which the positive pole is connected, and as near to the pole or electrode as possible. And because two positives repel each other, and also because the direction of the current is always from the positive to the negative pole, carrying the electro-vital fluid with it, either I must withdraw my positive electrode, or that excess of electro-vitality in the diseased part which makes it morbidly positive, and thus produces inflammation, must give way. I will not withdraw my positive pole, and therefore the positive inflammation must retreat and be dispersed. In treating this case, I will place my negative electrode either on some healthy part, or, if there be perceptible anywhere in the system a morbidly negative part, as is often the case, I will place my negative pole there. For example: if I am treating for nephritis—inflammation of the kidneys—when I do not perceive any part to be abnormally negative, I manipulate with my positive electrode over the inflamed kidney, having the negative electrode placed at the coccyx—lowest part of the spine. My positive pole repels the positive inflammation from the kidney; or, rather, repels from it that excess of electro-vital fluid which makes it morbidly positive and induces the inflammation, while the negative pole attracts the same towards the coccyx. On its way, it becomes more or less diverted to adjacent nerves; or, if gathered in the healthy part, under the negative pole, it is immediately dispersed by the normal circulation as soon as the electrode is removed. But if I find a spinal irritation, say in one or more of the cervical or dorsal vertebrae, and, at the same time, a stomach affected with chronic dyspepsia, accompanied with constipation of bowels, I will work over the inflamed or irritated spine with my positive pole, because I know from its irritation that there is an excess of electro-vital fluid in the part, making it improperly positive; and, with my negative electrode, I will, at the same time, treat over the stomach, bowels and liver; because I know, from the inaction of these organs, that there is a lack of the vital force—a deficiency of the electro-vital fluid—there, and that, consequently, they are too negative. Adopting this method, I accomplish two objects in the same treatment. First, my positive pole, applied to the spinal disease, repels from it the excess of electro-vital fluid which was there doing mischief; and, second, my negative pole attracts the same, along with the artificial or inorganic electricity, to the stomach and bowels where it is wanted, since negatives attract positives. Or I wish to rouse to action a torpid liver. Now, if I find inflammation, or enlargement of the spleen, as is commonly the case in chills and fever, I place the positive pole upon the spleen, at the left side, just below the false ribs, and the negative pole on the liver, which is best reached immediately below the ribs on the right side, and around backward and upward as far as to the spine. The positive pole repels the excess of electro-vitality away from the positive spleen, and so reduces the improper excitement there, while at the same time it rushes, by attraction, to the negative liver, under the negative pole, and makes that more positive, and so more active. In this way, I change the polarization of the parts, and, in so doing, remove the sustaining cause of the disease. You here perceive that I treat a positive part with the positive pole, so as to repel the excess of electro-vitality from it, and thus repress its excessive action; and that I treat a negative part with the negative pole, so as to attract the electro-vital fluid, along with the current from the machine, to it from under the positive pole, and thus increase the action by making it more positive.

But suppose I do what nearly all of the doctors do, who use electricity with any regard to polarity; that is, if treating acutely inflamed eyes, for example, apply the negative pole to the eyes, thinking thereby to make them more negative; or, if treating amaurosis, apply the positive electrode to the affected parts, thinking thereby to make them more positive! I say, suppose I do this same thing, do you not see that, by the fixed laws of electricity, I necessarily increase the evils that I would remedy? Do you not see that, by placing my negative pole on the already overcharged and inflamed eyes, I attract to them yet more of the electro-vital fluid, and so increase their positive condition and aggravate the inflammation? and that, by presenting my positive electrode to the eyes already more or less paralyzed, I repel what little electro-vitality there was there, and so make the nerves all the more negative and dead? And yet, I repeat it, this is precisely the plan of almost all the men who use electricity in therapeutic practice with any regard to its polarization. They treat a positive disease—rather, a hypersthenic disease, (for they seldom know anything of the electrical states of diseased parts), with the negative pole, and an azooedynamic disease, which is negative, with the positive pole!—all directly antagonistic to science and success.

But the great mass of physicians, who attempt to treat electrically, have no knowledge either of the electrical condition of the various forms of disease, nor of the distinctive and peculiar effects produced by either pole of the artificial current; and consequently all their use of this powerful agent is entirely empirical—merely haphazard experiment.

I may have raised an inquiry a few moments since which ought to be answered. I said, in effect, that in treating a positive disease, such, for instance, as acute, inflammatory rheumatism or acute pleurisy, I would use the positive pole on the inflamed parts, and the negative pole on either some healthy part or on a morbidly negative part, if I could find such. So, too, I said I would treat a negative disease, such as amaurosis or torpidity of liver, with the negative pole, placing the positive pole on either some healthy or morbidly positive part. The query may have arisen, "By placing the one pole or the other on a healthy part, do you not derange the normal electro-vital action there, disturbing its healthy polarization?" I answer, yes, for the time being, I do; and if this disturbing force were to be steadily continued for any considerable time, the disturbance would produce manifest and serious disease. But then, a pole or electrode, placed on a healthy part, we generally move, or ought to move, more or less, every few moments, which prevents the establishment of any perverted action in the part; and the moment the electrode is withdrawn, the normal polarization and healthy action are resumed.


It is often desirable to bring the entire parts of the patient, through which the current is made to pass, under one and the same kind of influence—such as shall make them all more positive or more negative. Especially is this true in many cases where we wish to run through but a short space. For this purpose, there is frequent advantage in using conducting cords of unequal length. As my views on this point have been disputed in certain quarters, I will endeavor here to place them in such a light that they shall not be rejected for want of being rightly understood.

I have previously remarked[C] that, for practical purposes, it is sufficiently exact to consider the magnetic circuit as extending only from the positive post, around through the conducting cords, the electrodes, and the person of the patient, to the negative post. We will so regard it at present. This circuit may be viewed as one continuous magnet, made up of several sections or shorter magnets placed end to end—the positive end of the first to the negative end of the second, and the positive end of the second to the negative end of the third. In this arrangement, the negative end of the first section is the negative pole of the one whole magnet, and the positive end of the third section is the positive pole of the whole magnet. The minimum quantity of the magnetism is supposed to be at the negative pole, and the maximum quantity at the positive pole; and the quantity is supposed to increase, by regular graduation, from the negative to the positive pole. This being so, the quantity is the same in the positive end of either section and the negative end of the adjoining section, at their point of contact.

Now, in practice, the body of the patient, or so much of it as is embraced between the two electrodes, may be regarded as the second section in this magnet; and the cord connected with the positive post, together with its electrode attached, may be counted the first and most negative section; and the cord connected with the negative post, along with its electrode, may be the third and most positive section. And if this whole magnet be more and more positive, by regular degrees through all the sections, from its negative to its positive end or pole, then the nearer any given part of it, say the second section—the patient's person, may be to its positive pole in the negative post, so much the more positive that section or part will be. And the nearer such part or section may be to the negative pole in the positive post, so much the more negative it will be. If the cords be of equal length, the central point in the circuit or magnet will be in the second section—the person of the patient, midway between the electrodes; and that section will be charged with the mean quantity of the magnetic fluid. The central point will hold exactly the mean quantity. But if the cord in the first section be two yards long, and that in the third section be four yards, then section second—the patient's parts under treatment—will be nearest to the negative pole in the positive post, and consequently will be charged with much less than the mean quantity of the fluid, and will therefore be made so much the more negative. If, on the other hand, the cord in section first be four yards in length, and that in section third be only two yards, then the patient's body—section second—will be brought nearest to the positive pole in the negative post, and of course be charged with much more than the mean quantity of the magnetic fluid, and hence will be made so much the more positive.

It is true that the positive and negative poles of section second—the parts of the patient between the electrodes—will not be reversed by any such changes in the length or relative positions of the conducting cords; nor is such reversal required in those cases where the use of the long cord is indicated. The only change of polarization called for in such cases, is that all the parts through which the current is to pass should, in greater or less degree, be affected alike, as being made more positive or more negative. Of course these parts will be so affected in different degrees—those nearest to the short cord the most; those nearest to the long cord the least.

The class of cases where the use of the long cord is more especially advantageous, comprises those in which it is desirable to run the current out of the patient at the shortest admissible distance from the positive electrode. For example, in treating cynanche tonsillaris, (quinsy), if treating with the positive pole in the mouth, we would not wish to run the current further than to the back of the neck; or, if treating externally, we would not wish to carry the negative electrode further from the positive than from side to side. Here the long cord, with the negative electrode, would be a special advantage in subduing the inflammation. We would not care to increase the inflammatory action, as we should necessarily do on the positive side of the central point, by using cords of equal length.

Again, if treating a case of acute enteritis—inflammation of the intestines—we would not wish, while treating the abdomen with the positive pole, to increase the inflammation in the lower parts, by using equal cords and placing the negative pole at the sacrum or the coccyx. Neither would we wish to reduce the strength of the lower limbs by carrying the negative pole to the feet. Nor, yet again, would we care to endanger the thoracic viscera by running the current from the abdomen up to the dorsal or cervical vertebrae. The true way, in such a case, would be to connect the negative electrode with a long cord, and then to run the current through the inflamed parts, and out somewhere from the lumbar vertebrae to the coccyx, by treating over the abdomen with the positive pole, and placing the negative pole on the lower parts of the spine.

As the cords that accompany the machine from the manufacturer are usually cut about two yards in length, every practitioner should supply himself with an extra cord, of at least three yards, to be used as the long cord.


I have already said that when the conducting-cords are of equal length, as for the most part they should be, the central point of the circuit will be in the person of the patient, about midway between the two electrodes. Now, since the current always runs from the positive to the negative pole, and makes its whole circuit in that direction, it will be readily seen that, from the place on the patient where the positive pole is applied, inward as far as to the central point, the direction of the current may properly be said to be inward; and that, from the central point to the place of the negative electrode, where the current comes out, its direction may be said to be outward. When, therefore, a part is treated with the positive pole, or when the part under treatment appears anywhere between the positive pole and the central point, it is not unusual to say, It is treated with the inward current. And when a part is treated with the negative pole, or when it appears between the central point and the negative pole, it is often spoken of as being treated with the outward current.


The mechanical effect of the forward end of the current, or that part of it which is under the negative electrode, is to relax, expand and weaken; while that of the rear end, under the positive electrode, is to contract and strengthen. A moving ship disperses the waters at its bow, but draws them in at its stern. The bullet shot from a gun, in passing through a plank, leaves the perforation closed where it enters in, but wide open where it comes out. Thus, in physics, the advance end of a moving body tends to disperse the element through which it is passing, while the rear end tends to its contraction. Analogous to this are the mechanical effects of the different ends of an electrical current in the living tissue. When, therefore, we wish to relax a muscle that is unnaturally contracted, as by rheumatism or otherwise, we must bring it under the forward end—the outward current—the negative pole. If we desire to contract ligaments or muscles that are abnormally relaxed, (not atrophied), as in prolapsus uteri, we must subject them to the rear end of the current—the positive pole. Parts that are unnaturally contracted are electrically negative in excess, and need to be made more positive. And parts that are unhealthily relaxed are too positive, and should be made more negative. We make a part more positive by applying to it the negative pole, and more negative by applying to it the positive pole. Parts spasmodically contracted are acute and positive; those permanently contracted are chronic and negative.


I alluded, above, to a distinction between a relaxed and an atrophied condition of an organ. There is such a distinction, which should be carefully observed while treating parts so affected. An atrophied muscle or organ becomes soft and flabby from lack of nourishment. But this condition is not properly one of relaxation. It is rather a diminution—a thinning out of atoms, by wasting without replenishment. Such a condition is always negative, and requires treatment under the negative pole. On the contrary, relaxed parts, such as appear in prolapsus uteri, and in the sagging down of the diaphragm, with the thoracic and abdominal viscera, exhibit no lack of nutrition or of vital action. Relaxation is a loosening of atoms from each other, more or less, without loss of aggregate weight; and implies a condition electrically positive in excess, and calls for treatment with the positive pole.


Negative affections, as a general rule, are best treated with the upward-running current—the positive pole being placed at a lower point than the negative. Inflammatory affections, and other plus conditions, for the most part, should be treated with the down-running current, keeping the negative pole at a lower point than the positive. But these rules admit of frequent exceptions, which every practitioner's experience will soon reveal.

The downward current, running with the downward and outward course of the nerves, tends to depletion and weakness, for the reason that it runs off from the system the electro-vital fluid. The upward current, on the other hand, running against the nerves, inward towards their source, feeds the system with fresh electricity, and gives a tonic effect. Yet for this purpose, it must not be too long continued, nor of too severe strength, lest it overtask and irritate the nerve-sheaths.

In treating a paralyzed organ, the current should commonly be run from a healthy part, whether that require it to be directed downwards or upwards. For example: In treating a paralyzed foot or leg, the positive pole should be upon the lower part of the spine—at the coccyx—or even under the sole of the opposite foot. It is best to alternate between these positions. So in treating a paralyzed hand or arm, let the current be run from the upper part of the spine, and frequently also from the opposite hand. With the negative electrode, treat all over the paralyzed parts. Yet it is well, in these cases, often to reverse the direction of the current for a brief period at the close of the sittings, say one to two minutes, for the purpose of rousing the nervous susceptibility, and to prevent exhaustion from too continuously running off the electro-vital fluid.


For decomposing and carrying off unnatural growths, as fistula, ficus, glandular enlargements and other tumors, it is often best to dilute the electrolytic quality of the galvanic current A B with one or both of the Faradaic currents, as by taking A C or A D instead of A B. But malignant and poisonous affections, as scirrhus and other varieties of cancer, and also cases of infectious virus, demand continually, or with but occasional exceptions, the primary galvanic current A B. [->]In treating these malignant affections, the current should be run through as short a distance of healthy tissue as possible, yet so as fairly to reach the diseased part. And whether this part be brought, for a given time, under the one pole or the other, the opposite pole should be attached to the long cord, so as to throw the central point of the circuit, not in the person of the patient, but out on the long cord, thus bringing the entire organic parts though which the current is passed on one and the same side of the center, and so, under the ruling influence of the same pole.

Those diseases which require the chemical or electrolytic currents should, for the most part, be treated under the negative pole, particularly those which need the galvanic current A B, and also old ulcers and chronic irritation of mucus surfaces. Glandular enlargements not of scirrhous character, and excrescent growths not poisonous, may often be reduced, and perhaps sometimes cured, under the positive pole. But my own experience, even with these affections, is that it is better to treat them under the negative pole until they come to assume, as sometimes they will, an acute state, when the positive pole may be used with success. If, however, it appears desirable to produce a cauterizing effect, this must be done by persistent treatment under the negative pole of a strong A B or A C current, and, if the disease be external, with a small pointed electrode.


Acute diseases are to be regarded as electrically positive, and chronic affections as negative. The exceptions are rare, if any at all. Malignant cholera, which is eminently acute, might by some be considered as an exception. In negative diseases, there is a low degree of electro-vitality. And it has been remarked by careful observers, particularly in the Orient, that cholera rages with greatest destructiveness when no special electric phenomena have for long time appeared in the atmosphere, and when the artificial electrical apparatus could be made to yield its sparks only with difficulty, or not at all. And again, after a thunderstorm, when the electric machine works again freely, the cholera is also found to abate quickly, and sometimes very greatly. The inference drawn from these facts has been that the prevalence of cholera is largely owing to a lack of electricity in the atmosphere, and consequently to a want of the animal electricity or electro-vitality in the system of the patient; and thence it might be concluded that cholera implies a negative condition of the system. I think there is a fallacy in this reasoning. There appears to me to be an unwarrantable assumption in confidently attributing the long absence from the heavens of marked electrical phenomena, and the failure of the electric machine to give its spark, to an unquestioned deficiency of atmospheric electricity. Electrical manifestations take place only when the plus and minus conditions are existing, in relation to each other, somewhat near, or not very remote; and the visible phenomena appear when the positive and negative rush together, so as to produce a polar equilibrium. But suppose a plus condition to exist over a wide region, then, everything being overcharged, the visible phenomena would be as rare and as difficult of attainment as if all around were negative. How, then, can it be inferred, with any certainty, from such data, that there is a deficiency of electricity, rather than an excess of it?

I have not treated a case of cholera; but my own impression of it is, that in the first stage, or during the "rice-water" discharges, the condition of the system is, as in other acute affections, excessively positive; but that, as the collapse comes on, it rapidly subsides into an intensely negative state, thus assuming the chief characteristic of a chronic condition.

In the above remarks, I would not be understood to indicate any doubt that the prevalence of cholera is often aggravated or mitigated by peculiar electrical states of the atmosphere. It appears altogether probable that such may be the fact; and I should presume that electrical treatment, properly administered, would be found eminently successful in this fearful malady.

Again, in chronic rheumatism there might, at first view, seem to be frequent exceptions to the rule last above stated; but the cases alluded to are not such. It is often the fact, during chronic rheumatism, that soreness and severe pain are felt, especially under the presentation of the negative pole, thus showing that these points require to be treated with the positive pole. But, in such cases, although the general disease of the system be chronic and negative, these sore and severely painful points have, for the time, risen in their electro-vital condition, and so become acute and positive. But when chronic rheumatism is attended with only a dull pain, and that chiefly under exercise of the parts, and with little or no increase of pain under an application of the negative pole of the A D current, medium strength, and with no swelling, then the pain, the stiffness and the lameness are all marks of the negative state, and the parts must be treated with the negative pole of the A D current, strongly at first, but diminishing in force, from time to time, as the patient becomes relieved.

Alkaline affections—those causing excessive alkaline secretions—are electrically positive. Acid or acidulous states are negative.


For healing wounds, burns, ulcers, irritation of mucous membranes, and cutaneous eruptions, the A D current is by far the best. Recent wounds, contusions and burns are electrically positive. Old ulcers and irritations are generally negative.


To make a correct diagnosis, it is needful to bear in mind the following general principles:

1. Where the organism is in health, the momentary application to the patient of the negative pole of the double Faradaic current B D—the best for diagnostic use—in good medium strength,[D] will be directly felt, yet will cause no pain. Whatever muscular contractions may be produced for the time, they are harmless, and need not be noticed. Wherever the electro-vital fluid is in excess, producing hypersthenia—too much vital action—the part is morbidly positive; and, excepting sometimes in the stomach and bowels, the B D current, of medium force, directed to that part under the negative pole, will produce sharp pain. But where a current of full medium strength can not be felt under the negative pole, there is a morbidly negative state—a deficiency of vital action—a condition of at least partial paralysis—anaesthesia.

2. In a state of health, different persons will have different degrees of sensibility to the electric current, depending on their varied nervous susceptibility. Again, the same person will be much less sensitive to the current when directed to the spine, particularly the lower part of it, and to the stomach, than when directed to most other parts. Also, where bones lie near the surface, the periosteum—the membrane immediately investing the bone—is apt to feel more sensibly under the electrodes than the muscular parts. But these variations soon become so familiar to the practitioner that he finds no difficulty in making the proper allowances for them.

In making an electrical examination, the two following questions present themselves to be answered: First, whether anywhere, and, if so, where is there a morbid electrical state in the body of this patient? Second, what is the electrical condition of that unhealthy part? Is it positive or negative?

These questions being answered, according to the tests just given, the well-instructed practitioner is prepared to go on and treat the patient judiciously, and with success, if success be attainable by any form of medication.

Let me next say, It is best, as a general rule, to make examinations with the negative pole. The reason of this is that, since the current is always more energetic under the negative than under the positive pole, it makes itself more sensibly felt there than under the positive pole. Indeed, it will commonly be felt even to painfulness there, if the part were overcharged and inflamed before. Thus, under the negative electrode, the current readily detects any active disease. But, if we be making the examination with the positive pole, as we come upon any point more or less inflamed, the current, quick as lightning, rushes away from such inflamed part to the part under the stationary negative pole, carrying with it, for the time being, more or less of that excess of electro-vital fluid which was in force at the inflamed point; so that no pain, perhaps, is experienced there; and thus the disease escapes detection.

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