The 'involuntary life' would today be described as trance or as a hypnotic state. Beard writes:
Every human being lives two lives, the voluntary, in which he acts more or less under the control of the will, and the involuntary, in which he acts automatically, and over which the will has but a limited power, or none at all. The acts of both the body and the mind, may be involuntary as will as voluntary, and in both body and mind, the two lives are constantly blended.
However, he was a skeptic when it came to the popular practices and explanations of these phenomena by the means of animal magnetism, spiritism, and the like. He wrote:
The study of the involuntary life, aside from its purely physiological interest, has an important relation to the great modern delusions, animal-magnetism, spiritualism, clairvoyance and mind-reading. It is indeed through these delusions, that the attention of physiologists has been called to the phenomena of the involuntary life, and but for them, and the public excitement they caused, these phenomena, or many of them, interesting and suggestive as they are, would probably have eluded observation.
He goes on to describe what he considered the discovery of a 'new force', which was also called 'etheric force'. At that time it was considered new, but it was later understood as high-frequency electromagnetism, or more simply radio waves.
This article appeared in Archives of Electrology and Neurology, November 1875, Vol. II, No. 2. PDF 43 pages.
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