The Human Atmosphere
by Walter J. Kilner
One of the primary articles of faith of the New Age movement is that the human body has energy fields surrounding it, and that those fields can be used to diagnose the internal state of the body (and mind). This idea can be traced to fringe science of the 18th, 19th and early 20th century, including, the 'Animal Magnetism' of Mesmer, the 'Odic force' of Baron Carl von Reichenbach, and Edwin D. Babbit, and the work of Dr. Walter J. Kilner, the author of this book. Kilner was the first to use the term 'human aura' in a medical context. The idea of halos goes back a long way. Besides the conventional glowing ring around the head of western depictions of saint, Buddha was said to have glowed with light shortly before his death. Buddhist iconography depicts circular pools of light surrounding celestial beings.
However, Kilner, using specially developed filters, believed that he could view a luminous field surrounding any human being, not just the saintly. In this text, proofed from the second edition of 1920, he describes dozens of case studies where he used the color and shape of the aura to perform medical diagnosis. The problem is that very few could reproduce Kilner's results, and the medical community was understandably skeptical. This may have been because of the N-Ray scandal of 1903, only a few years before Kilner announced his results in 1911. Just a few years before, a Professor Blondlot of Nancy University, France, had announced that he had discovered a new kind of radiation, N-rays, or Nancy-rays. These were supposedly produced by both inorganic substances but also human nervous activity. Shortly after this, an American physicist, Robert W. Wood, had debunked N-Rays by surreptitiously removing a key prism from Blondlot's N-ray detector, which apparently had no effect on the results.
Today the human aura is still considered speculative, in spite of the striking images produced by techniques such as Kirilian photography. The human body does have fluctuations in electrical conductivity which can be correlated with changes in mental state, a phenomena which is utilized by lie detectors, biofeedback devices, and the 'E-Meter.' Acupuncture is based on a map of internal channels of energy in the body, unknown to western science. So it is not so far fetched that there might be some kind of unknown energy field which encompasses the human body, and if so, it might be used for medical purposes.