Puslapio vaizdai
[ocr errors]

the death coincidences' and to have been credited with a continued interest in ‘mundane affairs.'

A lady once asked a man of years and large experience, Do you believe in ghosts?! Madam, I have seen too * many,' was the reply. It is with a feeling of a similar kind that we bid farewell to the spiritual Census.

When we pay attention to another class of the mysteries on which the Society for Psychical Research has been endeavouring to turn the 'torch of science'-the operation of mental power upon inanimate matter-it is evident that quite different considerations arise. That the mind of one man operates upon the mind and the imagination and the nervous system of another, often without interchange of speech between the two, there is no doubt. That this effect is produced by 'telepathy'--that is, otherwise than through the operation of the senses, there is, pace Professor Lodge, the greatest doubt-a doubt which, in the opinion of im

: partial men, the researches of the Society have not succeeded in removing. But the action of mind or will, not over other minds, but over matter, is a very different story. Here we should expect to find scientific investigation treading with firnier steps. You cannot measure or weigh ghosts. But when a solid object such as a table soars into the air, apparently out of sheer obedience to the will of a medium, its behaviour as well as that of the medium admits of a vast variety of practical tests. Photographs, we are told, have been taken of tables at these moments; but what is required is that the tables should be freely handled, and that every effort should be made to eliminate possible fraud. Is or is not the weight of the table a material consideration ? If so, at what weight does the performance become possible? Is the presence of particular persons found to prevent successful experiments? If so, at what distance does this preventive power act? Mr. Home, we are told, added on one occasion a foot to his stature. Was he measured ? If so, at which end of him was the addition made ? If in proportion, did his thickness vary in proportion with his length? During his floatings in the air, did any one take hold of him? and, if not, why not? If the Society is face to face with a new force in nature, it may be unreasonable to ask it to tell us what it is ; for that, as Mr. Balfour truly says, is more than science can tell us even of gravitation. We do, however, ask then to attempt to test it and to measure it; yet in this direction this particular science makes no advance. When we are told that “flowers and


[ocr errors]

other objects have actually been brought into locked ' rooms, ** either by spiritualistic influence or the agency of an occult force in nature, at the command of a medium, we humbly ask, Is it not a more natural, nay, a safer and more scientific conclusion, to hold that the miracle is the work of successful fraud ?

We can hardly conclude our discussion of the operations of the Psychical Research Society without making a few general observations. "Science,' it used to be thought, ineant'cer

tain knowledge;' and scientific methods of investigation we should expect to involve at least some process of reasoning from certainty to certainty, some prospect of advancing from what is known to what has been hitherto unknown. What truth has the Society established? We grant the triumph won in the year 1885, but it was gained over, not on behalf of, modern magic. Madame Blavatsky, the highpriestess of theosophy, had surprised the world by the discovery of the existence, in Asia, of certain ‘Mahatmas' who amongst other occult powers possessed that of appearing in two places at once. The Society was at first a good deal impressed with the interest attaching to such a discovery. If not exactly what they expected to find, at least it fitted in admirably well with the results of their own researches. The idea, however, occurred to some of them that perhaps there might have been deception practised somewhere, and, like the honest men they are, they despatched a commissioner to India, who spent several months in making investigations in that country. In the result, the Society became convinced that Madame Blavatsky had been guilty of deliberate deception, and had been long engaged in a conspiracy' with other persons to produce by ordinary means 'a series of apparent marvels for the support of the theosophic 'movement. Perhaps some people--less learned, but more

' wise, than our scientific investigators-had arrived with less trouble, as surely and more quickly, at the same conclusion. The Society found itself face to face, not with a new force in nature, not with the psychic mysteries it wa longing to explore, but with rampant imposture. There was no mystery, there was nothing supernatural. There was only a fraudulent woman and her fraudulent friends of the one part,' and their dupes of the other part.'

The Psychical Research Society again and again refers to the extraordinary powers alleged to have been possessed by the late

[ocr errors]

• Podmore, p. 379.


[ocr errors]

Mr. Home-how he floated in the air ; how he added a cubit to his stature; how he handled live coals! Well! well! well! But is it forgotten that when one of the spirits at Home's beck and call induced its wealthy widow to transfer many thousand pounds' worth of Consols from her name to his (Home's), the Court of Chancery compelled the restitution of the money, on the ground that undue influence had been employed? If Madame Blavatsky was the high-priestess of theosophy and the great witness of the miraculous powers of the Mahatmas, Mr. Home was the great master of levita'tions. We are reminded by scientific investigators' that • levitation’ was well known amongst the saints in mediæval times. So it was. Mr. Lecky, for instance, says that ' nothing could be more common than for a holy man to be • lifted up from the floor in the midst of his devotions.' * Those were days of superstition as well as of saints. These are days of science, and, alas ! also, we are afraid, of sinners. Let the Society for Psychical Research beware! The two instances quoted show fraud, and fraud in high places. Madame Blavatsky and Mr. Home were exposed, and they are dead. Are there no Blavatskys and Homes left upon earth? If there are, they are likely to be numbered amongst the acquaintances of the Psychical Research Society, for it is in the ranks of that learned Society that they will find a ‘predisposition to believe' in the miraculous which it would have been difficult in the darkest of dark ages to match.

We have invited our readers to consider not merely the startling conclusions and the incidental, yet portentous, observations of the Society and its principal members, but also some of the evidence upon which they build. We have not selected by any means those cases which tell most strongly against the theories of the Psychical Research Society. We have endeavoured by extract to give a fair sample of the report, leaving it, wherever possible, to speak for itself. The Society contains in its list of members the names of many distinguished men of the highest eminence in the world of science. It is out of respect to them that we allow space for tales whose intrinsic merits would not entitle them to reproduction in our pages. Lord Kelvin has declared of hypnotism and clairvoyance that one half is imposture and the rest bad observation.' That in the other departments of modern magic are found the same ingredients in the same

* Rationalism in Europe, vol. i. p. 153. VOL. CLXXXI. NO. OCCLXXI.


[ocr errors]

proportions there is ample evidence in the Proceedings

of the Psychical Research Society. In automatic writing, with or without planchette, it is instructive to learn from Mr. Podmore * that there is frequently exhibited a will

and an intelligence differing from the writer's normal self, .but displaying a yet more alien disingenuousness. ... Indeed 'a certain degree of moral perversity is a frequent and

notorious characteristic of automatic expression. Again we say to Mr. Podmore and the Psychical Research Society • Beware!' It is distressing to have to localise moral perversity; and yet, if it exists, it is hardly fair to put it all upon the spirits. It has been difficult, whilst studying the voluminous

Proceedings of our scientific investigators, to keep always present to the mind the mighty importance of the subject of their inquiries. The stories, it is true, are in themselves trivial. The readiness to be duped is conspicuous. Yet the attempt of science to penetrate the veil that separates the living from the dead is evidently made in good faith and seriously. Death is a solemn word alike for philosophers and fools. Far be it from us to assert the impossibility of apparitions or of ghosts; though we maintain that the cases so laboriously collected by the Society bear the strongest marks of fraud and self-deception. Mr. Myers, who has been probably connected for a greater length of time than any other investigator with the mysteries of modern magic, contributed a curious article to the October number of the National Review. In this rhapsody we are invited to . look to telepathy and to automatic utterances to exalt our idea of duty, and to provide a reasoned sanction for prayer.' In spiritualistic phenomena grown-up men are not ashamed to suggest that we are to search for evidence of a Divine government of the Universe, and to find proof of the immortality of the soul!

Subjects such as these employed the highest thoughts of the greatest minds that the world has known long before ages so 'scientific' as our own. Revelation apart, men's minds then and since have soared upwards as they have hoped and believed in the existence of a God and of a future life for the soul. The conceptions themselves and the reasoning which supported them alike tended to the ennobling of man. We are now invited to build our system of the supernatural upon 'Phinuit' and 'the perverse


Apparition and Thought Transference, p. 95.

[ocr errors]

spirits' of Mr. Podmore. The invitation is addressed to us, -Heaven save the mark !--in the name of science. But the name of science has been abused. We invite our readers to study the ‘Proceedings of the Psychical Research Society,'and then to ask themselves whether, upon evidence so ridiculously weak, it could have been possible to ground conclusions more unnecessary, more unnatural, and more unscientific than those it has adopted. After all, the great body of scientific men take no part in these investigations. They mock at the pretension of those who claim for their wild theories and their astounding experiments the support of science. ‘Planchette' may serve with its vagaries to amuse an evening party; and he would be a stern moralist rather * than an agreeable member of society' who threw a damper upon a harmless diversion by the display of ill-timed scepticism. As yet however, in spite of the Psychical Research Society, Planchette' has not made its appearance at the Royal Institution. Lectures have not yet been there delivered upon the morality, perverse or otherwise, of the unknown intelligence that dictates its communications. Let the Psychical Research Society, if it will, with its spirits and its occult powers of nature, compete with the avowed conjuring of the Egyptian Hall. Let it take seriously, if it will, the inanities of the spiritualistic séance. Let it pledge its faith, if it will, to the occurrence of motiveless miracles. Let it believe in unspiritual spirits. Let it revive crystal-gazing. Let it restore amongst its own members the authority of dreams, and of warnings. But at least do not let the public believe that in the voice of the Society they hear the voice of Science.

Many strange stories are recorded in the bulky Proceed‘ings' of the last thirteen years; yet perhaps some of those who have read them may think that, after all, there is nothing there half so difficult to understand as the existence amongst us to-day of the Society for Psychical Research.

« AnkstesnisTęsti »