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occur under such protean forms and varied conditions, and in private houses quite as often as at the apartments of the mediums, are in no way produced by machinery.
Perhaps the most prominent recent attack on Spiritualism was that in the Quarterly Review for October, 1871, which is known to have been written by an eminent physiologist, and did much to blind the public to the real nature of the movement. This article, after giving a light sketch of the reported phenomena, entered into some details as to planchette writing and table-lifting,-facts on which no spiritualist depends as evidence to a third party, and then proceeded to define its stand-point as follows:
“Our position, then, is that the 80-called spiritual communications come from within, not from without, the individuals who suppose themselves to be the recipients of them; that they belong to the class termed 'subjective' by physiologists and psychologists, and that the movements by which they are expressed, whether the tilting of tables or the writing of planchettes, are really produced by their own muscular action exerted independently of their own wills and quite unconsciously to themselves.”
Several pages are then devoted to accounts of séances which, like Lord Amberley's, were mostly failures; and to the experiences of a Bath clergyman who believed that the communications came from devils; and, generally, such weak and inconclusive phenomena only are adduced as can be easily explained by the well-worn formulæ of "unconscious cerebration," "expectant attention," and "unconscious muscular action." A few of the more startling physical phenomena are mentioned merely to be discredited and the judgment of the witnesses impugned; but no attempt is made to place before the reader any information
the amount or the weight of the testimony to such phenomena, or to the long series of diverse phenomena which lead up to and confirm them. Some of the experiments of Professor Hare and Mr. Crookes are quoted, and criticised in the spirit of assuming that these experienced physicists were ignorant of the simplest principles of mechanics, and failed to use the most ordinary precautions. Of the numerous and varied cases on record of heavy bodies being moved without direct or indirect contact by any human being, no notice is taken, except so far as quoting Mr. C. F. Varley's statement, that he had seen, in broad daylight, a small table moved ten feet, with no one near it but himself, and not touched by him, “as an example of the manner in which minds of this limited order are apt to become the dupes of their own imaginings."
This article, like the others here referred to, shows in the writer an utter forgetfulness of the maxim, that an argument is not answered till it is answered at its best. Amid the vast mass of recorded facts now accumulated by spiritualists there is, of course, much that is weak and inconclusive, much that is of no value as evidence, except to those who have independent reasons for faith in them. From this undigested mass it is the easiest thing in the world to pick out arguments that can be refuted, and facts that can be explained away; but what is that to the purpose? It is not these that have convinced any one; but those weightier, oft-repeated, and oft-tested facts which the writers referred to invariably ignore.
Professor Tyndall has also given the world (in his "Fragments of Science,” published in 1871) some account of his attempt to investigate these phenomena. Again we have a minute record of a séance which was a failure; and in which the Professor, like Lord Amberley, easily imposed on some too credulous spiritualists by improvising a few manifestations of his own. The article in question is dated as far back as 1864. We may therefore conclude that the Professor has not seen much of the subject; nor can he have made himself acquainted with what others have seen and carefully verified, or he would hardly have thought his communication worthy of the place it occupies among original researches and positive additions to human knowledge. Both its facts and its reasonings have been well replied to by Mr. Patrick Fraser Alexander, in his little work entitled, “Spiritualism; a Narrative and a Discussion," which we recommend to those who care to see how a very acute yet unprejudiced mind looks at the phenomena; and how inconclusive, even from a scientific standpoint, are the experiences adduced by Professor Tyndall.
The discussion in the Pall Mall Gazette in 1868, and a considerable private correspondence, indicates, that scientific men almost invariably assume that in this inquiry they should be permitted at the very outset to impose conditions; and if, under such conditions, nothing happens, they consider it a proof of imposture or delusion. But they well know that, in all other branches of research, nature, not they, determines the essential conditions, without a compliance with which no experiment will succeed. These conditions have to be learnt by a patient questioning of nature, and they are different for each branch of science. How much more may they be expected to differ in an inquiry which deals with subtle forces of the nature of which the physicist is wholly and absolutely ignorant ! To ask to be allowed to deal with these unknown phenomena as he has hitherto dealt with known phenomena, is practically to prejudge the question, since it assumes that both are governed by the same laws.
From the sketch which has now been given of the recent treatment of the subject by popular and scientific writers, we can summarise pretty accurately their mental attitude in regard to it. They have seen very little of the phenomena themselves, and they cannot believe that others have seen much more. They have encountered people who are
easily deceived by a little unexpected trickery, and they conclude that the convictions of spiritualists generally are founded on phenomena produced, either consciously or unconsciously, in a similar way. They are so firmly convinced on à priori grounds, that the more remarkable phenomena said to happen do not really happen, that they will back their conviction against the direct testimony of any body of men, preferring to believe that they are all the victims of some mysterious delusion whenever imposture is out of the question. To influence persons in this frame of mind, it is evident that more personal testimony to isolated facts is utterly useless. They have, to use the admirable expression of Dr. Carpenter, "no place in the existing fabric of their thought into which such facts can be fitted.” It is necessary, therefore, to modify the “fabric of thought” itself; and it appears to the present writer that this can best be done by a general historic sketch of the subject; and by showing, by separate lines of inquiry, how wide and varied is the evidence, and how remarkably these lines converge towards one uniform conclusion. The endeavour will be made to indicate, by typical examples of each class of evidence and without unnecessary detail, the cumulative force of the argument.
HISTORICAL SKETCH. Modern Spiritualism dates from March, 1848; it being then that, for the first time, intelligent communications were held with the unknown cause of the mysterious knockings and other sounds similar to those which had disturbed the Mompesson and Wesley families in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. This discovery was made by Miss Kate Fox, a girl of nine years old,* and the
* Miss K. Fox (now Mrs. Jencken) states that she was only five years old at this time. Her parents, however, appear to have given the age as nine to several inquirers at this time.
first recognised example of an extensive class now known as mediums. It is worthy of remark that this very first “ modern spiritual manifestation" was subjected to the test of unlimited examination by all the inhabitants of the village of Hydesville, New York. Though all were utter sceptics, no one could discover any cause for the noises, which continued, though with less violence, when all the children had left the house. Nothing is more common than the remark, that it is absurd and illogical to impute noises, of which we cannot discover the cause, to the agency of spirits. So it undoubtedly is when the noises are merely noises; but is it so illogical when these noises turn out to be signals, and signals which spell out a fact, which fact, though wholly unknown to all present, turns out to be true? Yet, on this very first occasion, twenty-six years ago, the signals declared that a murdered man was buried in the cellar of the house; it indicated the exact spot in the cellar under which the body lay; and upon digging there, at a depth of six or seven feet, considerable portions of a human skeleton were found. Yet more, the name of the murdered man was given, and it was ascertained that such a person had visited that very house and had disappeared five years before, and had never been heard of since. The signals further declared that he, the murdered man, was the signaller; and as all the witnesses had satisfied themselves that the signals were not made by any living person, or by any assignable cause, the logical conclusion from the facts was, that it was the spirit* of the murdered man; although such a conclusion might be
* It may be as well here to explain that the word "spirit,” which is often considered to be so objectionable by scientific men, is used throughout this article (or, at all events, in the earlier portions of it) merely to avoid circumlocution, in the sense of the "intelligent cause of the phenomena," and not as implying "the spirits of the dead,” unless so expressly stated