Εικόνες σελίδας
PDF
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

Again, Mr. Lecky says that the belief in the supernatural only exists “when men are destitute of the critical spirit, and when the notion of uniform law is yet unborn.” Mr. Lecky in this matter contradicts himself almost as much as Hume did. One of the greatest advocates for the belief in the supernatural was Glanvil; and this is what Mr. Lecky says of Glanvil :

" The predominating characteristic of Glanvil's mind was an intense scepticisın. He has even been termed by a modern critic the first English writer who has thrown scepticism into a definite form; and if we regard this expression as simply implying a profound distrust of human faculties, the judgment can hardly be denied. And certainly it would be difficult to find a work displaying less of credulity and superstition than the treatise on The Vanity of Dogmatising,' afterwards published as Scepsis Scientifica, in which Glanvil expounded his philosophical views.

The Sadducismus Triumphatus is probably the ablest book ever published in defence of the reality of witchcraft. Dr. Henry Moore, the illustrious Boyle, and the scarcely less eminent Cudworth, warmly supported Glanvil; and no writer comparable to these in ability or influence appeared on the other side; yet the scepticism steadily increased."

compelled the belief, due to a well-known natural law. It is certain that witches, and the persons subject to their influence, were what are now termed "mediums;" that is, persons of the peculiar organization required for the manifestation of modern spiritual phenomena. For several centuries all persons endowed in almost any degree with these peculiar powers were persecuted as witches, and burnt or destroyed by thousands all over the so-called civilised world. The mediums being destroyed, the production of the phenomena became impossible; added to which the persecution would lead to concealment of all incipient manifestations. Just at this time, too, physical science began to make those rapid strides which have changed the face of the world and induced a frame of mind which led men to look with horror and loathing at the barbarities and absurdities of the witch-persecutors. A century of repose has allowed the human organism to regain its normal powers; and the phenomena which were formerly imputed to the direct agency of Satan, are now looked upon by Spiritualists as, for the most part, the work of invisible intelligences very little better or worse than ourselves.

Again Mr. Lecky thus speaks of Glanvil :

“It was between the writings of Bacon and Locke that that latitudinarian school was formed which was irradiated by the genius of Taylor, Glanvil, and Hales, and which became the very centre and seedplot of religious liberty.”

These are the men and these the mental conditions which are favourable to superstition and delusion ! *

* The Rev. Joseph Glanvil, who witnessed some of the extraordinary disturbances at Mr. Mompesson's, and has given a full account of them, and has also collected the evidence for many remarkable cases of supposed witchcraft, was not the credulous fool many who hear that he wrote in favour of the reality of witches will suppose him to have been, but a man of education, talent, and judgment. Mr. Lecky, in his “History of the Rise and Progress of Rationalisın in Europe,” says of him :-“A divine who in his own day was very famous, and who I venture to think has been surpassed in genius by few of his successors. The works of Glanvil are far less known than they should be." I here give a few extracts from his “ Introduction to the Proof of the Existence of Apparitions, Spirits, and Witches."

“Section IV.—What things the author concedes in this controversy about witches and witchcraft”:Firsť : He grants that there are “witty and ingenious men” opposed to him

in the matter. Secondly: He admits that some who deny witches are good Christians. Thirdly : He says, “I allow that the great body of mankind is very credul

ous, and in this matter, so that they do believe vain impossible things in relation to it. That converse with the Devil and real transmutation of men and women into other creatures are such. That people are apt to impute the extraordinaries of art or nature to witchcraft, and that their credulity is often abused by subtle and designing knaves through these. That there are ten thousand silly, lying stories of witchcraft

and apparitions among the vulgar.” Fourthly: “I grant that melancholy and imagination have very great

force and beget strange persuasions; and that many stories of witches

and apparitions have been but melancholy fancies." Fifthly : “I know and yield that there are many strange natural diseases

that have odd symptoms, and produce wonderful and astonishing effects beyond the usual course of nature, and that such are sometimes

falsely ascribed to witchcraft." Sixthly : “I own the Popish Inquisitors and other witch-finders bave done

The critical spirit and the notion of uniform law are certainly powerful enough in the present day, yet in every country in the civilised world there are now hundreds and thousands of intelligent men who believe, on the testimony

much wrong, that they have destroyed innocent persons for witches, and that watching and torture have extorted extraordinary confessions

from some that were not guilty.” Seventhly: He acknowledges that of the facts which he affirms to be real

many are very strange, uncouth, and improbable, and that we cannot understand them or reconcile them with the commonly received

notions of spirits and the future state. Having made these concessions to his adversaries he demands others in return.

“Section V.-The postulata which the author demands of his adversaries as his just right are, viz. :-First: That whether witches are or are not is a question of fact. Secondly: That matter of fact can only be proved by immediate sense or

the testimony of others. To endeavour to demonstrate fact by abstract reasoning or speculation is as if a man should prove that Julius Cæsar

founded the Empire of Rome by algebra ur metaphysics. Thirdly: That Scripture is not all allegory, but generally has a plain,

literal, and obvious meaning. Fourthly: That some human testimonies are credible and certain, viz.:

They may be so circumstantiated as to leave no reason of doubt; for our senses sometimes report truth, and all mankind are not liars, cheats, and knaves—at least they are not all liars when they have no

interest to be so. Fifthly: That which is sufficiently and undeniably proved ought not to be

denied because we know not how it can be, that is, because there are difficulties in the conceiving of it; otherwise sense and knowledge is gone as well as faith. For the modus of most things is unknown, and the most obvious in nature have inextricable difficulties in the con

ceiving of them, as I have shown in my Scepsis Scientifica. Sixthly: We know scarcely anything of the nature of Spirits and the con

ditions of the future state." And he concludes :-“These are my postulata or demands, which I suppose

will be thought reasonable, and such as need no more proof." The evidence adduced by a man who thus philosophically lays down his basis of investigation cannot be despised; and a perusal of Glanvil's works will well repay anyone who takes an interest in this inquiry.

of their own senses, in phenomena which Mr Lecky and others would term miraculous, and therefore incredible, but which the witnesses maintain to be part of the order of nature. Instead of being, as Mr. Lecky says, an indication of “ certain states of society”_"the normal expression of a certain stage of knowledge or intellectual power"—this belief has existed in all states of society, and has accompanied every stage of intellectual power. Socrates, Plutarch, and St. Augustine alike give personal testimony to supernatural facts; this testimony never ceased through the middle ages; the early reformers, Luther and Calvin, throng the ranks of witnesses; all the philosophers, and all the judges of England, down to Sir Matthew Hale, admitted that the evidence for such facts was irrefutable. Many cases have been rigidly investigated by the police authorities of various countries; and, as we have already seen, the miracles at the tomb of the Abbé Paris, which occurred in the most sceptical period of French history, in the age of Voltaire and the encyclopædists, were proved by such an array of evidence, and were so open to investigation, that one of the noblemen of that court-convinced of their reality after the closest scrutiny-suffered the martyrdom of imprisonment in the Bastile for insisting upon making them public. And in our own day we have, at the lowest estimate, many millions of believers in modern Spiritualism in all classes of society; so that the belief which Mr Lecky imputes to a certain stage of intellectual culture, only appears, on the contrary, to have all the attributes of universality.

IS THE BELIEF IN MIRACLES A SURVIVAL OF SAVAGE THOUGHT?

The philosophical argument has been put in another form by Mr. E. B. Tylor, in a lecture at the Royal Institution, and in several passages in his other works. He maintains that all Spiritualistic and other beliefs in the supernatural are examples of the survival of savage thought among civilised people; but he ignores the facts which compel the beliefs. The thoughts of those educated men who know, from the evidence of their own senses, and by repeated and careful investigation, that things called supernatural are true and real facts, are as totally distinct from those of savages as are their thoughts respecting the sun, or thunder, or disease, or any other natural phenomenon. As well might he maintain that the modern belief that the sun is a fiery mass, is a survival of savage thought, because some savages believe so too; or that our belief that certain diseases are contagious, is a similar survival of the savage idea that a man can convey a disease to his enemy. The question is a question of facts, not of theories or thoughts, and I entirely deny the value or relevance of any general arguments, theories, or analogies. when we have to decide on matters of fact.

Thousands of intelligent men now living know, from personal observation, that some of the strange phenomena which have been pronounced absurd and impossible by scientific men, are nevertheless true. It is no answer to these, and no explanation of the facts, to tell them that such beliefs only occur when men are destitute of the critical spirit, and when the notion of uniform law is yet unborn; that in certain states of society illusions of this kind inevitably appear, that they are only the normal expression of certain stages of knowledge and of intellectual power, and that they clearly prove the survival of savage modes of thought in the midst of modern civilisation.

I believe that I have now shown-1. That Hume's arguments against miracles are full of unwarranted assumptions, fallacies, and contradictions, and have no logical force what

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »