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By EPES SARGENT,
AUTHOR OF ",
PLANCHETTE, OR THE DESPAIR OF SCIENCE,
PALPABLE OF IMMORTALITY," ETC.
Un scepticisme présomptueux qui rejette les faits sans examen
ALEXANDER VON HUMBOLDT.
The claim that there is a scientific basis for Spirit. ualism will be an offence to many. Indeed, the mere announcement of this work has called forth adverse pre-judgments because of its title. But constantly recurring facts, which have stood the test of more than thirty-three years of ridicule, denunciation, and antagonism, must be admitted as having within them some stubborn elements of vitality, if not of scientific verification.
What is science but a collection of truths, suggest. ive of an inference? According to John Stuart Mill, the language of science is, “ This is, or This is not ; This does, or does not happen. Science takes cogni. zance of a phenomenon, and endeavors to discover its law.” Surely, under this ruling Spiritualism has a scientific basis in its proven facts.
The man claiming to be scientific, who imagines that be knows all the laws of nature so thoroughly that occurrences like clairvoyance and direct writing cau. not take place without transcending the boundaries of scientific recognition, is himself under a hallucination more serious than any which he affects to deplore.
The neglect in all ages of the world to treat these and cognate facts with fearless, scientific scrutiny, has
been productive of incalculable mischief. In ancient times, the assumption that all that comes from the unseen world, certified by seeming miracle or preterhuman power, must be from God or from gods, led to all sorts of theosophic impositions, superstitions, spurious revelations, and wild delusions.
In mediæval times, and during the witchcraft excitement, monstrous cruelties were practised under the sanction of law through the failure to recognize that nothing occurring in the realm of nature can be supernatural, and that all phenomena whatever are subjects for cool scientific investigation and analysis. Certain remarkable psychic phenomena were construed as Satanic and unnatural, and an ancient Hebrew prohibition, founded in ignorance, was made the excuse for punishing with death innocent persons suspected of producing in others, medially affected, any inexplicable manifestation of abnormal power.
In our own day, though belief in spirits has been repudiated extensively, the credulity of unbelief threatens new dangers. By dismissing the phenomena as impossible, unnatural, or supernatural, specialists in science, - who, however eminent in their own departments, are ignorant of the first rudiments of the psycho-physical science, now inchoate, -- instead of checking superstition by their scornful attitude, are really giving it its excuse for being. Persons experi. mentally sure of the phenomena, finding that they can get no guidance or light from men of science, qualified by laborious study and experiment to explain the occurrences, either put premature constructions on what they witness, or yield a too hasty credence to the assurances of some medium or medial pretender
claiming a divine or high spiritual inspiration. Even so it was in the old days of oracles, seers, and myths, and so it may be again, with variations, unless a science, at once searching and liberal, reverent and intrepid, shall interpose to prevent such a revival, and protect the unwary from the frauds and delusions to which a little display of medial power may lead.
The attempt made in 1876, in London, by Professor Lankester, a specialist in physical science, wedded to the materialistic monism of Haeckel, to put a stop to the phenomena through Henry Slade, the medium, and to do this by the strong arm of the law, was simply an act of superstition, prompted by the same fanaticism (taking the form of unbelief instead of belief) which actuated the proceedings of “ Matthew Hopkins, of Manningtree, Gent.," the famous English “witchfinder" of the year 1645. The first scientists of Germany at once exempted Slade from Lankester's suspi. cions; and Zöllner says, in reference to Slade: “The physical facts observed by us in his presence negatived on every reasonable ground the supposition that he, in one solitary case, had taken refuge in imposture. In our eyes, therefore, he was innocently condemned, - a victim of his accuser's and judge's limited knowledge.” The recent remarkable occurrences in open church at Knockmore, in Ireland, where hands and living figures have mysteriously appeared, show how important it is that these phenomena should no longer be evaded.
Rationally studied and interpreted, unmixed with delusions self-generated or imposed by others, Spiritualism is the one safeguard against all superstitions. It shows that the unseen world is as much within the