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limit. Accepting it, a system of conveying impressions from mind to mind at great distances, and of reading the secret thoughts of our fellows, seems more likely than it would have seemed a century ago that electricity would enable us to communicate with our antipodes. With such prospects opened out to us by scientific authorities so high, it certainly seems more appropriate that the sceptic, if such there be, should make known his reasons for the faith that is in himperhaps we should say for his lack of faith-than that the doctrinos should be treated as unworthy of attention.
A glance at the state of public opinion upon the subject will serve to guide the course of our thoughts. The class which fully accepts the views in question, notwithstanding its eminent respectability, is probably small in numbers. Between this class and those who entirely reject the views, as at least groundless, if not unworthy of consideration, there is an intermediate class holding that phenomena known as 'occult’ are exhibited which science has not yet satisfactorily explained. Their view has recently been happily stated by an able writer in the Saturday Review: “ The existence of abnormal phenomena which science is only beginning to take notice of, a dim region of strange things which, even if they can be proved not to be supernatural, are at any rate outside the limits of organised experience,' has been proved by the work of the Society for Psychical Research. * There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy' has never ceased to express a feeling of the same general nature in the minds of intelligent men, and is at least one article of a creed always lending hope to the inquirer after the occult. This middle class, which thinks that there is something to learn in occultism, is certainly large, and perhaps makes up a majority of the intelligent community. It is to this class, as well as to that of believers, that the writer desires to address himself.
The personal element necessarily plays so large a part in any discussion of occultism that it may not be wholly out of place if the writer ventures on a brief statement of his own experience. The idea that the emotions of beloved relatives, sometimes at a great distance, might be agents in directing the various currents of feeling that run through the mind was imbibed in early childhood. Just how the idea originated he cannot say, but it is probably more common among children than we suspect. More than once, when hurrying home, he intently fixed his mind upon his mother with a strong desire that she should expect his coming, think about him, and prepare herself accordingly. But all these efforts proved failures. Another idea prevalent at a later period was that, by fixing the attention on someone sitting at a distance in front of you in church, you could move him to turn and look around him. But no systematic experiments in this direction were seriously attempted. When, in ,the early fifties, the great wave of spiritualism, with its rappings, tablemoving, and communications from the dead, was reaching its height, he naturally took an interest in the subject. But what little he could see of these performances seemed so silly as to prejudice him against the whole subject.
About 1858 an event of prime importance in the history of spiritualism is worthy of being recalled. A warm discussion of the pretensions of certain mediums in the columns of the Boston Courier ended with the offer, by an anonymous writer,' to pay a large reward to any mediums who would, in the presence of a committee to be named by himself, perform any of their pretended feats—move a table without touching it, read a paper in a closed envelope, or produce a rap the cause of which could not be traced. The offer was promptly accepted by the leader of the Boston spiritualists, and several of the most famous mediums were brought from different parts of the country. The committee was three in number. At its head was Professor Louis Agassiz, and his coadjutors were two eminent scientific men of Cambridge. The séances were held in the room of a Boston hotel. The result was a failure so complete that the professors felt humiliated to sit hour after hour and see nothing to enliven the proceedings. Some cabinet feats of tying and untying were attempted, but nothing was done in this line except very elementary tricks of legerdemain. The mediums could assign no better reason for their failure than the contempt of the spirits for men who disbelieved in their existence. A large measure of abuse was heaped upon the committee by the spiritualists, but no argument better than this was adduced in explanation of their failure.
After this the general attitude of the writer towards the subject was this : ‘I have no time to engage in the search after wonders. But tell me in any special case when I can go to a séance with any reasonable chance of seeing something out of the usual order of nature, and I will avail myself of the opportunity with alacrity.' What has especially struck him ever since has been the absence of any such opportunity. When he was told of wonderful phenomena, and inquired as to details, the stories were always about things that had happened long before. An inquiry where a medium of special power could be found elicited no answer but that her whereabouts was unknown, and she had probably left the city.
But after many years of waiting, an opportunity was at last presented. The most wonderful performer yet seen came to Washington, and her feats were vouched for by a party of intelligent gentlemen who had been invited to a private exhibition of her powers. She was a Miss Lulu Hirst, of Georgia. It must be said that spiritualism, as well as any other theory, was ignored by her ; but this was a minor matter, as the feats were of the same kind as those essayed by the professional spiritualists. A day or two later arrangements were
Understood to be Professor Felton, afterward President of Harvard University,
made for another series of tests, in which the writer took part. Without going into details, which were published fully at the time, it will suffice to remark in the present connexion that nothing was shown but what was obviously produced by the efforts of a muscular and dexterous young woman. She was quite frank and honest, without pretences to be investigated or trickery to be exposed. Every surprising element in the narrative proved to be based on imperfections of observation and misconception of what was seen. Only one feature was needed to complete the picture. When the public performance of the 'wonder-girl' came off, the Press reporters were, of course, present, and their accounts of her feats as narrated in the journals rivalled or outdid the performances of the most celebrated mediums.
After the English Society for Psychical Research was organised by a body of men eminent in various fields of thought and action, the past failures of the writer did not prevent his taking part in the formation of an American society of the same kind, of which he had the honour to be elected the first president. Two years of experiment, study, and reading confirmed his ideas on the subject; but he remained for some time longer in occasional communication and co-operation with Dr. Hodgson, & well-known member of the English society, then resident in Boston. He now invites the courteous consideration of the reader to the views of the subject which he has reached after a half-century of occasional study, coupled with reading the best he could find in support of occultism.
We may approach the heart of our subject in the easiest way by recalling two lines of research in which Sir William Crookes took a prominent part. The name of this eminent investigator has become a household word in science from his discovery that a singular radiance may be produced at the cathode of a vacuum-tube through which an electric current is passing. He also observed curious phenomena of motion among material objects in his laboratory for which he could not assign any physical cause. Several years elapsed after these discoveries before either of them seemed destined to develop into an important branch of science. Then the one first. mentioned suddenly assumed importance.
In 1895 Professor Röntgen made the astounding discovery that certain rays from a Crookes’ tube were capable of passing through opaque substances and imprinting themselves upon a photographic plate beyond. About the same time it was shown by Becquerel that rays of similar properties, but different in kind, could be produced from uranium. All the physical laboratories of the world were at
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once actively engaged in testing these discoveries and following up the lines of research which they suggested. The result was the discovery of radium and the development of a new branch of physicsradio-activity, which has gone on expanding until it bids fair to revolutionise our views of matter, ether, and their relations. Works on radio-activity are multiplying, and physicists are looking for new theories of light and electricity which are to grow out of this field of research.
With this outcome in mind, let us trace up the lines of the other observation. More than ten years before Röntgen's work the Society for Psychical Research had been organised. The special purpose was the critical investigation of occult phenomena in general, especially those which seemed to show the passage of impressions from mind to mind without material agency. A discovery which seemed to inaugurate a revolution in the science of mind was soon announced in the form of an experiment equally remarkable for its simplicity and its importance. A blindfolded person, called a 'percipient,' was seated at a table with pencil in hand and paper before him, while his senses, especially those of sight and touch, were protected so far as possible from the action of all external agencies. His mind was to be quite free from all prepossession, and his will to be reduced as nearly as possible to a state of quiescence. The only action allowed was that of drawing geometrical figures on the paper quite at random, without intent to produce any special forms. Behind him, but not in contact or communication, was seated an “agent with a miscellaneous collection of geometrical figures. Whilst the agent concentrated his vision and attention as intensely as possible upon one of these, the percipient was instructed to allow his pencil to move on the paper without any prejudice in favour of any special form of motion. The process was repeated with one figure after another. When the drawings of the percipient were compared with the originals a resemblance was found sufficient to show an undoubted relation between the reproduced figures and those on which the attention of the agent had been fixed.
The experiments were not confined to geometric forms. Others were devised with the common object of showing that the random actions of one mind were affected by the action of another mind in its neighbourhood, without the use of words or signs. When the agent drew cards from a pack one by one, and at each drawing the percipient named a card at random, it was found that the proportion of correct guesses was much greater than it should have been as the result of chance, which would, of course, be one out of fifty-two.
In one point these experiments had a great advantage over those of the physicists. Crookes' tubes and other apparatus required for experiments in radio-activity demand so much care and expense in their production that their use is confined to professional workers in physical laboratories. But the apparatus necessary to the demonstration of thought-transference abounds in every household. Men, women, paper, pencils, tables, screens, handkerchiefs for blindfolding, and cards make up a fairly complete list of essentials. The results to be ultimately expected from the experiments transcend in practical importance all that we can expect from the development of radio-activity. Such being the case, the natural anticipation was that thought-transference would become a branch of experimental psychology, the laws of which would form an important chapter in every treatise on this subject, and that apparatus for showing it would be as well known in every psychological laboratory as that for experimenting in X-rays is in every physical laboratory.
Twenty-five years have elapsed since the announcement, and what has been the outcome? Scientifically, nothing at all. The science of psychology has been behind few others in the extent of its development since the experiments described were begun. But if thought-transference is seriously treated in any treatise on this science the writer has not noticed it. The reason is not far to seek. No result relating to thought-transference has yet been reached that belongs to the realm of science. Science properly so called comprises the statement of laws or general facts. No collection of isolated events, however large it may be, forms a part of it. Radio-activity is a science because it is a general fact which everyone can verify that, if you organise a certain system of experiments, you can take a photograph through many opaque substances. That coal will burn when brought into contact with fire is a proposition belonging to the same domain. But if we could only say that someone in England had at some time made coal burn, then, a few years later, someone in Russia, then someone in America, and so on, such facts, though they mounted into the hundreds or the thousands, would not establish the law that coal was combustible, and therefore would not belong to science. The question how the supposed burning came about in the special cases cited might be interesting, yet the process of investigation would be difficult if no careful experimenter were ever able to bring the combustion about. So with thought-transference. In order that a scientific conclusion
. as to its reality may be reached, it is necessary to show under what conditions it takes place. The Psychical Society tried to determine, by a repetition of the experiments under various conditions, whether the action of the agent upon the percipient would pass through a screen, and how it varied with the conditions. When these questions could be answered, the first step would be taken toward placing the subject upon a scientific basis. But no result could ever be reached that was general in form. The nearest approach to a general proposition that could be formulated from all the experiments was : if you make the experiment you may possibly see what seems to show