Electrical Currents in Nerves
By Dirk Anderson
The myth that Mrs. White was years ahead of science was popularized in the 1972 book Prophet of Destiny written by Rene Noorbergen.1 Noorbergen, who previously published books extolling psychics Jeanne Dixon, David Bubar, and Nostradamus, writes:
"Ellen White Wrote: 'Whatever disturbs the circulation of the electric currents in the nervous system lessens the strength of the vital powers, and the result is a deadening of the sensibilities of the mind.' ... It was in the year 1929 that Hans Berger, a German psychiatrist, first published a series of irregular curved lines... It was not until five years after Berger first announced his discovery that Charles Mayo, M.D. of the Mayo Clinic, first supported his discovery. Now we know that 'the little wavy lines reveal the activity of the micro-electrical generators within our nervous systems. These wonderful waves exist in the human body, and are the vital-force of the heart and the nerves.'"2
Noorbergen and others have suggested that Mrs. White's references to electrical activity in the nervous system was not understood by scientists until 15 to 20 years after her death when scientists made the discovery. Is it true that Mrs. White was years ahead of science about electrical activity in the human nervous system?
White was actually warning against Masturbation!
Noorbergen fails to mention that Mrs. White's statement was a testimony written in 1870 warning about the dangers of masturbation. Here is the entire statement:
Some who make a high profession do not understand the sin of self-abuse and its sure results. Long-established habit has blinded their understanding. They do not realize the exceeding sinfulness of this degrading sin, which is enervating the system and destroying their brain nerve power. Moral principle is exceedingly weak when it conflicts with established habit. Solemn messages from heaven cannot forcibly impress the heart that is not fortified against the indulgence of this degrading vice. The sensitive nerves of the brain have lost their healthy tone by morbid excitation to gratify an unnatural desire for sensual indulgence. The brain nerves which communicate with the entire system are the only medium through which Heaven can communicate to man and affect his inmost life. Whatever disturbs the circulation of the electric currents in the nervous system lessens the strength of the vital powers, and the result is a deadening of the sensibilities of the mind. In consideration of these facts, how important that ministers and people who profess godliness should stand forth clear and untainted from this soul-debasing vice!3
Ellen White's writings on electrical current and masturbation copied from L.B. Coles!
L.B. Coles was a former Millerite physician who wrote a book on health reform entitled, Philosophy of Health. He published it in 1853, ten years prior to Mrs. White's first major health reform vision. On page 4 of the book he expounds upon man's "circulation of his electric forces in the brain and nerves". In his book Coles wrote extensively on the subjects of vital energy and electrical curruent in the nervous system. For example,
"Sensation and voluntary motion are not only dependent on a right electric circulation, but also those functions which involve involuntary action. ... No vital function can be properly carried on, without a right performance of the electric forces. In view of these facts, great pains should be taken, by those who care for health, to preserve the nervous system in a perfectly healthy state. Everything which tends to impair its tone, impairs the tone of the vital forces of every function of the body. And not only are these physical functions injured, but the mental forces also..."4
It has been discovered that Ellen White copied many of her health reforms from Coles. An analysis of Ellen White's testimony cited by Noorbergen shows striking similarities to concepts that Coles published 17 years earlier:
Galvani Discovers Electricity in Nerves
Perhaps the first scientist to discover electrical activity in the nerves was Luis Galvani, an Italian scientist. In 1791, after completing a series of experiments, Galvani "grew convinced that the vital spirit was electricity flowing through the nerves and announced this to the Bologna Academy of Science in 1791."5 Later on, in the 1840s, a German scientist named Emil Du Bois-Reymond "went on to show that when a nerve was stimulated, an impulse traveled along it. He measured the impulse electrically..."6
Whether or not Mrs. White was aware of these scientific discoveries is unknown. However, the idea that electricity was running through the human nervous system was not only taught by L.B. Coles, but was promoted by other popular health reformers who believed in the concept of "vital force".7
John Wesley and Electricity
Another possible source for Mrs. White's understanding of electricity's role in the human body was John Wesley, founder of the Methodist Church of which Mrs. White was a member during her early years. In his personal journal on January 4, 1768, John Wesley wrote how he had recently read a book on electricity by a Dr. Priestly...
"He seems to have accurately collected and well digested all that is known on that curious subject. But how little is that all! Indeed the use of it we know; at least, in some good degree. We know it is a thousand medicines in one: in particular, that it is the most efficacious medicine in nervous disorders of every kind which has ever yet been discovered."8
John Wesley, along with Richard Lovett and other natural healers, began practicing electropathy for the healing of various conditions. Wesley called electricity "a thousand medicines in one, especially for nervous disorders" and "the greatest medicine yet known to the world."9
The idea that Ellen White was years ahead of science in saying there was electrical activity in the nervous system is a myth. Scientists had already discovered electrical activity in the body by the late 1700s, and further studies in the 1840s confirmed these findings. These findings were published long before Ellen White wrote any statement about electricity in the body. Besides this, natural healers, such as John Wesley, recognized the connection between electricity and the nerves and were using electricity to treat various nervous conditions prior to Ellen White's birth. L.B. Coles wrote extensively about electrical currents in the nervous system in 1853, a full decade before Ellen White's health reform vision. Since Ellen White drew heavily upon the writings of Coles and other health reformers when writing her own reforms, it would appear she received her information on electricity from these resources rather from divine inspiration or heavenly communications from angels.
1. Rene Noorbergen's other books include such titles as You are Psychic, Jeane Dixon: My Life and Prophecies, and Nostradamus Predicts.
2. Rene Noorbergen, Prophet of Destiny, chapter 7. According to Noorbergen's footnote following the Ellen White quotation, the quote was taken from Testimonies, Vol. 2, page 347.
3. Ellen White, Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 2 (1868-1871), p. 347, para. 2. The dating of the testimony to 1870 was done by the White Estate, as published in the book Mind, Character, and Personality, Vol. 1, p. 230, which gives the date of the testimony as "1870".
4. L.B. Coles, M.D., Philosophy of Health (1853), pp. 12-13.
5. Robert O. Becker, M.D., The Body Electric, p. 63.
6. Ibid., p. 64.
7. Ibid., p. 62. "The vitalists had long tried--unsuccessfully--to link the strange, incorporeal phenomenon of electricity with the elan vital."
8. John Wesley, The Journals of John Wesley (Abridged), chapter 14.
9. "The Rev. John Wesley MA (1703-1791), Pioneer Electrotherapist: A History of Medicine Study." (http://paintechnology.com/052.htm)
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