In 1888 The Secret Doctrine was published, written by Theosophical Society founder Helena Petrovna Blavatsky whom dedicated a whole chapter to a little-known scientist and inventor; John Worrell Keely. Some might call Keely an occult scientist due to the inventions he made.

The full title for Blavatsky’s magnus opus is The Secret Doctrine the Synthesis of Science, Religion and Philosophy. The book covers many subjects but the chapter regarding Keely was about occult science and the mystery of the machines that Keely had developed.

John Ernest Worrell Keely was born in 1837 in Philadelphia, where he lived most of his life, passing away in that city in 1898. He was the founder of the Keely Motor Company, which promulgated his many inventions and where he could work on his machines, all of which had an obscurity about them. These machines produced unlimited energy but they did not work with steam or electricity, oil or petroleum. They worked via a mysterious energy which Keely called sympathetic vibrations.

What was even odder about his machines was that they only worked when he operated them, it was as though he had the magic touch that would set them off. We shall come to this in a moment. First a little more biography.

As a child Keely had an interest in sound and vibration and he soon realised that they had a connection. There are a few versions of how he came to this conclusion, one such story is that as a child he noted that when a wagon rolled past his house the glass windows would vibrate and would continue to vibrate for a while after the wagon had passed by. He called this sympathetic vibration and he used this term when he described how his unlimited energy producing machines worked.

“My system, in every part & details, both in the developing of this power and in every branch of its utilization, is based and founded on sympathetic vibration.”[i], or sympathetic vibration physics as it is now known.

Keely describes how a vibrationary motion is present in every object and that this vibration can be influenced by sound. Keely looked into sounds and musical chords and the affect they have on objects. He was a musician and played with the local orchestra, so he already had an understanding of musical harmonies, what he was looking for was the force that was created with the sound vibrations. He realised that it was an unseen force and he set out with his machines to harness it.

This force that he harnessed he realised was a new type of energy which he called simply ‘The Force’, many people now call it the ether. The Collins English Dictionary refers to the ether as; the hypothetical medium formerly believed to fill all space and to support the propagation of electromagnetic waves.

Keely was drawing energy from the ether. He was collecting ether and producing energy from the atmosphere using vibration and sound. He regarded this as working with the natural laws of nature, a merging of natural and universal laws with his machines to create a free, unlimited energy.

The Keely Motor is what he was known for in his time, this machine was a dissipating motor that was also a generator that once set off produced unlimited energy. He patented it in 1872. People came from far and wide to see it work but nobody understood how it worked, even the wizards of electricity; Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison, came to visit him and see his machines.

It could be seen that it used various principles of hydrodynamics, mechanics and vibration physics, but the ‘how’ baffled many people especially since Keely was very secretive about its workings.

Another big problem was that the machines only worked when he, Keely, was around. Though he says he discovered the force, he also was the force. He made the machines work through himself, either using his will power or because he was in some way attuned to the ether so that he, or his will, vibrated in tune with what he was working on. His own magnetism aided the machines in their operation.

Helena Blavatsky shines a light on Keely’s machines in her chapter on him in The Secret Doctrine[ii], where she compares his work to the lost technology of the ancient civilisations writing about this energy being; “…named by the Atlanteans MASH-MAK, and by the Aryan Rishis in their Ashtar Vidya by a name that we do not like to give. It is the vril of Bulwer Lytton’s “Coming Race,” and of the coming races of our mankind. . .The discovery in its completeness is by several thousand – or shall we say hundred thousand? – years too premature.”[iii]

Yet she also gives a warning in this chapter about the machines; “Keely’s discovery would lead to a knowledge of one of the most occult secrets, a secret which can never be allowed to fall into the hands of the masses.”

And she was not the only person to write about him. Rudolf Steiner also recognised the work that Keely was doing as a special science, an occult science or as Steiner termed it; spiritual science. Steiner also had another name for this type of work; Moral Technology and he said in his Berlin lecture of January 1906; “…the mechanical and the moral must interpenetrate each other, because the mechanical is nothing without the moral. Today we stand hard on this frontier. In the future machines will be driven not only by water and stem, but by spiritual force, by spiritual morality.”

It has been suggested that the character of Strader in Steiner’s mystery plays is based on Keely, and Steiner had props made for the scientific character that resemble Keely’s machines.

Steiner spoke about Keely in many of his lectures about the coming technology. In a lecture at Colognes in February 1906 he said; “Today we have come down to the physical level in every respect. If there is no moral development to go hand in hand with civilization at the physical level, physical achievements are destructive. Moral development will enable humanity to generate energies that will be very different from those that are now to be found at the physical level. Keely set his engine in motion with vibrations created in his own organism. Such vibrations depend on a person’s moral nature. This is the first hint of a dawn for a technology of the future. We will have engines in future that are only set going by energies coming from people who have moral qualities. Immoral people will not be able to set them going. Purely mechanical mechanism must be transformed into moral mechanism.”

Keely died in 1898, and not long after his death all of his paperwork and machines mysteriously disappeared. Some suggest that it was American government who took it, though there is some evidence that it was sent to Annie Besant in London. She was at that time the president of the Theosophical Society and she wanted to protect this technology from people who would perhaps misuse it for darker purposes.[iv]

Occult technology, moral technology, spiritual science, whatever its name, this type of energy is a cleaner energy, one that does not pollute the planet nor does it strip the world of her assets, it is an energy that would be free, limitless and ethical for one and all.

[i] Keely’s Secrets pdf version available online

[ii] Chapter X The Secret Doctrine HPB 1888

[iii] Ibid.


Written by

Debbie Elliott is the author of various fiction works all with a theological theme. Her latest book is 'Monkey Mind Robot Body' which looks at the coming impact of AI and trans-humanism. Debbie's non-fiction work looks at the theology of all religions and the history of prominent people in these realms, her specific interests are the work of G I Gurdjieff, Rudolf Steiner and the megaliths of standing stones that can be found all over our world. Debbie also makes podcasts for her YouTube channel; DJ Elliott, on various topics and has interviews with a selection of great guests on subjects that range from art to zoology. Her Youtube series ‘Occult Lives’ discusses diverse subjects from astrology to theosophy." All can be found at

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