Crookes title

A Great controversy once raged in European academies concerning the nature of light. While many held to Huygens’ wave-model, some believed that light also contained a very fine particulate component. A particulate haze theoretically accompanied each wave of light, causing the effulgence usually observed at dawn or dusk. This particulate haze necessarily differed in content and nature with source, being thrown out of radiant objects as an explosive cloud.

In this model of light, physicists eventually found themselves searching for a gaseous aether. Numerous writers hypothesized that such clouds of light particles formed an interstellar ultra-gas, one whose presence should be shown through simple force actions. Therefore, proofs of the ultragaseous aether were sought in countless failed quantitative experiments.

Qualitative experimenters had already satisfied themselves that light contained a component, whose nature was vivifying and not inertial. Thready and self-luminous in nature, an essential unity was observed among celestial light sources and the human aura by notable and rare academicians such as Baron von Reichenbach. His qualitative experiments employed the delicate human sensitivities which academicians disqualified.

These thready auric energies were not electrostatic or magnetic, and this created a furor in the universities. Disbarring the human sensorium, there was no inertial means for proving the existence of aura. And here was where quantitative science first challenged the very validity and worth of qualitative science in a unified assault.

CROOKES Sir William Crookes (1832-1919) was an aficionado of Reichenbach, studies which proved the essential integrity and living nature throughout nature. These views were formally espoused by Goethe in a thesis comprised of much older views, the compiled inheritance of old knowledge. Sir William was convinced that the world-foundation was a spiritual one, and that life was derived of energetic emanations proceeding forth from this sparkling and vivifying “astral” foundation.

In essence, Sir William believed that the physical world was undergirded by a living infrastructure from which all life, here and beyond, was drawn in a steadily pulsating flow. To this end, Sir William conducted experiments designed to reach through the veil which separated the two homogenous worlds. Through his varieties of electrostatic devices, he wished to reach through the inertial walls and touch the “astral” life source itself.

The Crookes Tube was designed to peer into “astral” space beyond the inertial walls. Using electrostatic tensions in order to shear inertial space open, Sir William and others spent long hours making observations of transient forms which appeared with great regularity in his “astral detectors”. It was here that he discovered the famed “dark space”, a region where all luminosity ceases, being replaced by a spreading black radiance.

When this black space appeared, a sensation of effortlessness also appeared in the room, an ease of thought and an uncommon extension of conscious states. This black radiance was not a terrestrial experience, having power to modify sensation and extend consciousness. Sir William believed this to be the very “astral foundation” tom free of all inertial bonds, and radiating into terrestrial space through his tubes.

In this awareness, later Crookes Tubes took on a decidedly occult appearance. These were large, globular, and contained concave mirrors. Sir William was often photographed carrying one such large globe in various angles of inspection. These large discharge devices were designed for group observations, being taken to various locations and used to examine spaces where free floating ectoplasms were reportedly observed. In effect, what Sir William had designed now was used as a ghost lamp! Others have since described similar experiences and effects associated with strong electrostatic impulse discharges (Gaddis, Dollard, Theroux).


During the course of these developments, Sir William undertook an experimental arrangement which would provide yet another proof of the “astral world” and its emanations. Light, he imagined, was a natural electrostatic tension across vast distances of inertial space. Here, the radiant black astral world would be very nearly exposed. Being exposed so directly, its energies were capable of being harnessed for work. Channels of black astral radiance were necessarily also core-like channels of great aetheric effulgence, foci where inertial space was dissolving and vital energies were appearing. Starlight and sunlight would serve as the best sources of this “astral radiance”.

Designing what he called a “light mill”, Sir William attempted to draw motive power directly from the “astral” cores of light-beams. The “light mill” was a device designed to be propelled by light beams which surrounded astral channels. A radial fan of thin mica vanes, each silvered on one side, was supported upon a rotating pivot of vanishingly small friction. Like the Crookes “astral detector”, this light mill was housed in a very highly evacuated glass globe. He named this device the “Radiometer”.

Deciding that a reflectivity should “tip the scale” of these decidedly frail forces, he coated one side of each mica vane with silver. Light particles, flooding the space where waves flowed, would now reflect and rebound away from the silvered vanes. The effect of this reflectivity would be transferred as kinetic force. The high vacuum within the globe would offer both light particles and mica vanes no opposition to rapid movements.

Momentum by “light pressure” alone, would push and propel the little fan of mica vanes as light-associated particles bounced off the silver coatings.

The globe prepared, light was directed onto a single silvered side. Nothing happened. The vanes refused to rotate. Sir William was completely baffled. This greatly puzzling mystery gripped academic minds everywhere. The inertial aether theory had met its first great impasse. Demanding the quantitative proof which it declared only valid, academicians discounted all but inertial proofs of the theory. Ultimately desiring the complete overthrow of any theory which included the very word “spirit” or “soul”, quantitative science found its first opportunity to gain pre-eminence.

After sufficient meditation, Sir William re-designed this original Radiometer. In this second design, vanes were coated on both sides with dissimilar materials. Silver sides were backed with an opposed coating of lampblack. According to the theoretical considerations, aether particles would reflect and bounce away from the silver, giving up their kinetic energy and driving the vanes forward. Absorbed by the opposed lampblack coating, the vanes would be drawn into particle flow, doubling the force. The resulting force-couple on each vane would theoretically multiply and compound the motive effects.

The new Radiometer carefully prepared, light was applied to the silver vane-faces in a tight beam. But a profound and remarkable anomaly was then observed. The vanes were indeed set into a whirl, but rotated in a direction opposite to that which theory demanded!

Vanes were repelled by light on the lamp black coated sides, while being drawn by the silver coated sides. What was this effect? How was this motion, strong and continual under the light, being produced? It was clear that light-pressure was not the cause of this movement, but what actually caused this movement?

Astute academicians declared that gas particles, and not light itself, was responsible for the vane-motion. According to their analysis, a swarm of gas particles near the lampblack were being heated by impinging light particles and absorbed by the vane. High velocity gas particles were brought against the black walls. There, the exchange of kinetic energy caused them to rebound off the vanes. Motion was the result.

The opposed dynamic supposedly took place at the silver coated sides, where swarms of gas particles could bring neither the vane nor the gas to an equivalent heat. This region supposedly became a rarefied one, drawing the vane into the relatively vacuous space.

Crookes and others were not sufficiently convinced of this explanation, there being numerous and obvious flaws in the argument. At certain point the glass-insulated rotor would have to cease moving. This would occur when once the enclosed gas became of a uniform heat. The vanes, no longer able to absorb any extra energy from the light, would cease.

This is not what Crookes empirically observed. Highly insulated Radiometers continued rotating with constant speed under full sunlight! It was also pointed out that the Radiometer should have best operated in a full atmosphere on a jeweled bearing, where an increased gaseous plenum would have supplied a greater population of gaseous kinetic carriers for motive power.

But Sir William found the Radiometer operated best at a very specific lowered atmospheric pressure.

The disheartening fact that light itself could not propel the vanes was added to the equally disturbing fact that highest Radiometer vacua produced no vane rotation. Crookes, whose familiarity with radiant black zones and their obvious astral connection gave him considerable confidence in his own methods and views. Accordingly he conducted several now forgotten classic experiments which produced Radiometer rotations in ultra high vacua.


Despite repeated attempts at measuring the 5o-called “pressure of light” in devices other than the Crookes Radiometer, only one person succeeded in demonstrating a form of light propulsion in very high vacuum. That person was Nikola Tesla, and the feat was accomplished by a collaboration with Sir William Crookes.

Sir William Crookes was especially intrigued with Tesla’s work on several counts. Tesla had managed the generation of new light forms. These longer light rays were invisible, penetrating, and decidedly astral. As Sir William was desperately interested in viewing the world of spectres and ghosts directly, he communicated with Tesla directly and privately. The awestruck Tesla reverently responded, finding himself a mentor and friend for life.

Within the white fire which the new Tesla Impulse Transformers discharged, Crookes could see the black radiance in free air … without a vacuum bulb! Tesla’s new electric light rays seemed to offer the most powerful means for illuminating the astral world.

Tesla called attention to the Crookes Radiometer on a great number of occasions, seeing a powerful mystery in its operation. In the Royal Lectures and the address to the Institute of Electrical Engineers in London (1892), Tesla hailed Sir William Crookes as the designer of the “most beautiful invention ever created”. He hailed the Radiometer as the most exquisite jewel among motors. Tesla frequently gave them to favored acquaintances.


Tesla first openly exposed the whole thesis concerning the unity of electric rays and light during his Royal Society Lectures. Toward the very end of his presentation, a climax toward which he methodically and progressively moved, Tesla openly disclosed the nature of his new technology. It was the last time he would so openly speak of this technology. The climax marked his departure from polyphase or alternating current research forever, his lecture having been a comparison between weak high frequency alternating radiant effects and strong electric ray impulse effects.

Tesla’s preoccupation with impulse currents would dominate all of his future technology. No researcher but Crookes would ever glimpse this truth. Familiar only with Tesla’s high frequency alternations, others like Sir Oliver Lodge would equate Tesla with high frequency alternations and forever damn themselves and Tesla to constant misunderstanding.

We are fortunate recipients of this lesson, where both Tesla and Sir William constructed several Radiometers which were to be wirelessly activated by impulsive electrostatic rays.

Whereas Sir William could not obtain movements in high vacua by visible light pressures, the rapid rotation of Radiometer blades in high vacuum had been achieved by Crookes only when using Tesla’s electric-impulse apparatus.

Tesla provided the long light rays applied to the special Radiometer which Sir William designed. Electric rays which Tesla described in several patents as being “identical with or resembling those of ordinary light” (patent 685.956. page 3:70) were applied to this Radiometer, both through direct connection and by wireless beams. Their effect was the instant rotation of the rotor to excessively high speeds .

The simple diagram (fig. 34 & 35) of this special straight high vacuum Crookes Electro-Radiometer is from Tesla’s, High Frequency and High Potential Currents.

The actual classic demonstration having been performed by Sir William Crookes on the previous day, Tesla repeated the experiment on behalf of his audience. Tesla describes the efficiency of these minute models by adding that “when the glass tube is held anywhere in the (radiant) electrostatic Held, the platinum wire becomes incandescent, and the mica vanes are rotated very fast”.

In these very successful demonstrations, Tesla was prefiguring the role of electric rays and wireless broadcast power along a proposed future industrial application. Electrostatic motors would convert wireless ray power into motion. T esla recognized that the Radiometer experiment of Sir William Crookes was indeed a new step in motor technology. Constructed on a larger, more commercial scale, the toy would become a mighty motivator.

Four years later, Sir William published an intriguing article on his special Electric Radiometers in The Electrical Experimenter (11 March 1896, page 258). His continuing article “On Radiant Matter” (part IV) describes the strange vane-motivating effects of his own discovered dark space. When flooding the entire Radiometer space, this “black radiance” caused very rapid vane-rotations. Thready black trails could be discerned within this black radiant space, a signature of more recent research (Vassilatos). In this, we, along with Sir William Crookes, again glimpse the black radiance of Vril in action.


In their wireless applications, notable observers saw very clearly that Tesla’s electric rays traversed long beam distances without the normal losses due to force division. Tesla cited facts which he experimentally ascertained, pointing to a new force discovery which few of the Royal Society except Sir William Crookes could accept.

Tesla plainly stated that a new form of light had been discovered, a light whose rays were longitudinal and capable of penetrating most materials with ease. He went on to say that visible lighfwas merely a shortened form of these new rays, and that they were not transverse in nature at all. Electric rays are described in his patent 685,956, selenium crystals being used to respond to their penetrating power. Only these potent rays of “dark light”, as Tesla elsewhere calls them, were ever successful in wirelessly moving Crookes Radiometer vanes in high vacuum. All of the subsequent experiments performed by Sir William employed various constant high voltage sources, being line-conduction arrangements.


Experimenters very quickly found that Crookes Radiometers could be used as detectors of radioactivity, the vanes rotating with great speed when approached by certain uranium-rich mineral specimens. Others found that Radiometers spun when certain radiant emanations (X-rays, radiowaves, and electrostatic rays) were focused near the globes. Radiometers measured and compared the intensities of various radiant and radioactive sources long before the Geiger ray-counter was ever developed, giving sight to otherwise invisible energies. In later years, Tesla would report the development of a “cosmic ·”, ray motor”.

When asked of its form and function, the aged Tesla remarked that it resembled the Crookes Radiometer, but with certain new modifications. Possibly coated with different radioactive minerals, the vanes of his “cosmic ray motor” would “tum night and day forever”. One can imagine the huge size of the Radiometer which Tesla would require in such an application, an undertaking which has not (to my knowledge) ever been attempted by any experimenter.


While the Tesla cosmic ray motor remains for our more aggressive experimenters to explore, certain very anomalous observations have been made with Radiometers of the ordinary variety. We are of course most intrigued and completely preoccupied with the so-called “Vril” effects, those which Sir William Crookes illustrated in his experiments with the “black radiance.”

The Radiometer spins vigorously on certain cold cloudy days. This mysterious and anomalous rotation is exceeded in magnitude only by the full force of direct summer sunlight, where other effects come into play.

In addition, placing a lamp at the center pivot point (facing down) should not effect any differential light absorption on the vanes. In this poise, vane surfaces being parallel to light beams, there are theoretically no photons moving or vibrating in lateral dispositions. No local heating effects of the enclosed gas near vanes can be called in explanation of the very rapid spinning which is observed. How then does the device spin with such great force?

Could there be some other energetic medium which, summoned by light irritations, is actually stimulated into propelling the vanes? The mere heat of cupped hands in a darkened room can tum Radiometer vanes with remarkable speed. More mysteriously, the Radiometer can be activated by human auric projections. Under specific conditions, one can effect movements in the vanes by a pointed finger alone (V assilatos). Other auric movements require the use of hand-held carbon rods. These movements follow very specific physiological sensations, the causative forces neither being infrared rays nor electrostatic fields.

Dr. Wilhelm Reich stated that energetic forms are irritants which, stimulating organismic energy, may cause very powerful motor effects in properly made responsive devices. Dr. Reich used a Radiometer-like device to illustrate this principle.

If visible light alone is not completely responsible for the rotation of Radiometer vanes, then we must look to that Vril foundation for answers.

Radiometers remain the most misunderstood devices in the laboratory arsenal. Their fascinations are endless, the experiments equally innumerable. With these simple and wonderful globes; Sir William Crookes vindicated his own view of the astral world. In his experimental series with electrified high vacuum Radiometers, he opened a new door of inquiry which should have spawned numerous protegees. Though few of the younger researchers gave his great work any regard, the twinkle in his eye showed that he knew the secret Perhaps one of you will discover some new revelation with one of these!

This article was sourced from the Journal of Borderlands Research VOL LII, Number 1, First Quarter 1996.

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