This article develops that of William Watts Miller (in Durkheimian
Studies 2005), who called for further detective work on the idea of ‘dynamogénie’.
My investigations show a way of linking it with Durkheim and
Mauss in bringing out that Eugène Gley – according to Mauss, a ‘lifelong
friend’ of Durkheim’s – was one of the last to work with the idea’s chief
originator, C-E. Brown-Séquard, a doctor who succeeded Claude Bernard
at the Collège de France and a central figure in Watts Miller’s article.
‘Dynamogénie’ was first described by Brown-Séquard in 1851 in relation to
a case of religious ecstasy, and was characterized by him as an exceptional
and unconscious mobilization of nervous and muscular energy. It was then
actively – if somewhat mysteriously – taken up by Durkheim and Mauss
over sixty years later in their co-signed review of Les Formes élémentaires
de la vie religieuse. Gley, whose trajectory ran in parallel with Durkheim’s
and to a lesser extent Mauss’s, constitutes a link between them and ‘dynamogénie’
that helps us fill out the two men’s intellectual horizons.