OPPOSITIONS OF SCIENCE
The most elaborate reply to the arguments for telepathy, based on The Report of the Census of Hallucinations, is that of Herr Parish, in his 'Hallucinations and Illusions.'
Herr Parish is, at present, opposed to the theory that the Census establishes a telepathic cause in the so-called 'coincidental' stories, 'put forward,' as he says, 'with due reserve, and based on an astonishing mass of materials, to some extent critically handled.'
He first demurs to an allowance of twelve hours for the coincidence of hallucination and death; but, if we reflect that twelve hours is little even in a year, coincidences within twelve hours, it may be admitted, donnent à penser, even if we reject the theory that, granted a real telepathic impact, it may need time and quiet for its development into a complete hallucination. We need not linger over the very queer cases from Munich, as these are not in the selected thirty of the Report. Herr Parish then dwells on that hallucination of memory, in which we feel as if everything that is going on had happened before. It may have occurred to most of us to be reminded by some association of ideas during the day, of some dream of the previous night, which we had forgotten. For instance, looking at a brook from a bridge, and thinking of how I would fish it, I remembered that I had dreamed, on the previous night, of casting a fly for practice, on a lawn. Nobody would think of disputing the fact that I really had such a dream, forgot it and remembered it when reminded of it by association of ideas. But if the forgotten dream had been 'fulfilled,' and been recalled to memory only in the moment of fulfilment, science would deny that I ever had such a dream at all. The alleged dream would be described as an 'hallucination of memory.' Something occurring, it would be said, I had the not very unusual sensation, 'This has occurred to me before,' and the sensation would become a false memory that it had occurred--in a dream. This theory will be advanced, I think, not when an ordinary dream is recalled by a waking experience, but only when the dream coincides with and foreruns that experience, which is a thing that dreams have no business to do. Such coincidental dreams are necessarily 'false memories,' scientifically speaking. Now, how does this theory of false memory bear on coincidental hallucinations?
The insane, it seems, are apt to have the false memory 'This occurred before,' and then to say that the event was revealed to them in a vision. The insane may be recommended to make a note of the vision, and have it properly attested, before the event. The same remark applies to the 'presentiments' of the sane. But it does not apply if Jones tells me 'I saw my great aunt last night,' and if news comes after this remark that Jones's aunt died, on that night, in Timbuctoo. Yet Herr Parish (p. 282) seems to think that the argument of fallacious memory comes in part, even when an hallucination has been reported to another person before its fulfilment. Of course all depends on the veracity of the narrator and the person to whom he told his tale. To take a case given: Brown, say, travelling with his wife, dreams that a mad dog bit his boy at home on the elbow. He tells his wife. Arriving at home Brown finds that it was so. Herr Parish appears to argue thus:
Brown dreamed nothing at all, but he gets excited when he hears the bad news at home; he thinks, by false memory, that he has a recollection of it, he says to his wife, 'My dear, didn't I tell you, last night, I had dreamed all this?' and his equally excited wife replies, 'True, my Brown, you did, and I said it was only one of your dreams.' And both now believe that the dream occurred. This is very plausible, is it not? only science would not say anything about it if the dream had not been fulfilled--if Brown had remarked, 'Egad, my dear, seeing that horse reminds me that I was dreaming last night of driving in a dog-cart.' For then Brown was not excited.
None of this exquisite reasoning as to dreams applies to waking hallucinations, reported before the alleged coincidence, unless we accept a collective hallucination of memory in seer or seers, and also in the persons to whom their story was told.
But, it is obvious, memory is apt to become mythopoeic, so far as to exaggerate closeness of coincidence, and to add romantic details. We do not need Herr Parish to tell us that; we meet the circumstance in all narratives from memory, whatever the topic, even in Herr Parish's own writings.
We must admit that the public, in ghostly, as in all narratives on all topics, is given to 'fanciful addenda.' Therefore, as Herr Parish justly remarks, we should 'maintain a very sceptical attitude to all accounts' of veridical hallucinations. 'Not that we should dismiss them as old wives' fables--an all too common method--or even doubt the narrator's good faith.' We should treat them like tales of big fish that get away; sometimes there is good corroborative evidence that they really were big fish, sometimes not. We shall return to these false memories.
Was there a coincidence at all in the Society's cases printed in the Census? Herr Parish thinks three of the selected twenty-six cases very dubious. In one case is a possible margin of four days, another (wrongly numbered by the way) does not occur at all among the twenty-six. In the third, Herr Parish is wrong in his statement. This is a lovely example of the sceptical slipshod, and, accompanied by the miscitation of the second case, shows that inexactitude is not all on the side of the seers. However the case is not very good, the two percipients fancying that the date of the event was less remote than it really was. Unluckily Herr Parish only criticises these three cases, how accurately we have remarked. He had no room for more.
Herr Parish next censures the probable selection of good cases by collectors, on which the editors of the Census have already made observations, as they have also made large allowances for this cause of error. He then offers the astonishing statement that, 'in the view of the English authors, a view which is, of course, assumed in all calculations of the kind, an hallucination persists equally long in the memory and is equally readily recalled in reply to a question, whether the experience made but a slight impression on the percipient, or affected him deeply, as would be the case, for instance, if the hallucination had been found to coincide with the death of a near relative or friend.' This assertion of Herr Parish's is so erroneous that the Report expressly says 'as years recede into the distance,' the proportion of the hallucinations that are remembered in them to those which are forgotten, or at least ignored, 'is very large.' Again, 'Hallucinations of the most impressive class will not only be better remembered than others, but will, we may reasonably suppose, be more often mentioned by the percipients to their friends.'
Yet Herr Parish avers that, in all calculations, it is assumed that hallucinations are equally readily recalled whether impressive or not! Once more, the Report says (p. 246), 'It is not the case' that coincidental (and impressive) hallucinations are as easily subject to oblivion as non-coincidental, and non-impressive ones. The editors therefore multiply the non-coincidental cases by four, arguing that no coincidental cases (hits) are forgotten, while three out of four non-coincidentals (misses) are forgotten, or may be supposed likely to be forgotten. Immediately after declaring that the English authors suppose all hallucinations to be equally well remembered (which is the precise reverse of what they do say), Herr Parish admits that the authors multiply the misses by four, 'influenced by other considerations' (p. 289). By what other considerations? They give their reason (that very reason which they decline to entertain, says Herr Parish), namely, that misses are four times as likely to be forgotten as hits. 'To go into the reason for adopting this plan would lead us too far,' he writes. Why, it is the very reason which, he says, does not find favour with the English authors!
How curiously remote from being 'coincidental' with plain facts, or 'veridical' at all, is this scientific criticism! Herr Parish says that a 'view' (which does not exist) is 'of course assumed in all calculations;' and, on the very same page, he says that it is not assumed! 'The witnesses of the report--influenced, it is true, by other considerations' (which is not the case), 'have sought to turn the point of this objection by multiplying the whole number of (non-coincidental) cases by four.' Then the 'view' is not 'assumed in all calculations,' as Herr Parish has just asserted.
What led Herr Parish, an honourable and clearheaded critic, into this maze of incorrect and contradictory assertions? It is interesting to try to trace the causes of such non-veridical illusions, to find the points de repère of these literary hallucinations. One may suggest that when Herr Parish 'recast the chapters' of his German edition, as he says in his preface to the English version, he accidentally left in a passage based on an earlier paper by Mr. Gurney, not observing that it was no longer accurate or appropriate.
After this odd passage, Herr Parish argues that a 'veridical' hallucination is regarded by the English authors as 'coincidental,' even when external circumstances have made that very hallucination a probable occurrence by producing 'tension of the corresponding nerve element groups.' That is to say, a person is in a condition--a nervous condition-- likely, a priori, to beget an hallucination. An hallucination is begotten, quite naturally; and so, if it happens to coincide with an event, the coincidence should not count--it is purely fortuitous.
Here is an example. A lady, facing an old sideboard, saw a friend, with no coat on, and in a waistcoat with a back of shiny material. Within an hour she was taken to where her friend lay dying, without a coat, and in a waistcoat with a shiny back. Here is the scientific explanation of Herr Parish: 'The shimmer of a reflecting surface [the sideboard?] formed the occasion for the hallucinatory emergence of a subconsciously perceived shiny black waistcoat [quotation incorrect, of course], and an individual subconsciously associated with that impression. I ask any lady whether she, consciously or subconsciously, associates the men she knows with the backs of their waistcoats. Herr Parish's would be a brilliantly satisfactory explanation if it were only true to the printed words that lay under his eyes when he wrote. There was no 'shiny black waistcoat' in the case, but a waistcoat with a shiny back. Gentlemen, and especially old gentlemen who go about in bath-chairs (like the man in this story), don't habitually take off their coats and show the backs of their waistcoats to ladies of nineteen in England. And, if Herr Parish had cared to read his case, he would have found it expressly stated that the lady 'had never seen the man without his coat' (and so could not associate him with an impression of a shiny back to his waistcoat) till after the hallucination, when she saw him coatless on his death-bed. In this instance Herr Parish had an hallucinatory memory, all wrong, of the page under his eyes. The case is got rid of, then, by aid of the 'fanciful addenda,' to which Herr Parish justly objects. He first gives the facts incorrectly, and then explains an occurrence which, as reported by him, did not occur, and was not asserted to occur.
I confess that, if Herr Parish's version were as correct as it is essentially inaccurate, his explanation would leave me doubtful. For the circumstances were that the old gentleman of the story lunched daily with the young lady's mother. Suppose that she was familiar (which she was not) with the shiny back of his waistcoat, still, she saw him daily, and daily, too, was in the way of seeing the (hypothetically) shiny surface of the sideboard. That being the case, she had, every day, the materials, subjective and objective, of the hallucination. Yet it only occurred once, and then it precisely coincided with the death agony of the old gentleman, and with his coatless condition. Why only that once? C'est là le miracle! 'How much for this little veskit?' as the man asked David Copperfield.
Herr Parish next invents a cause for an hallucination, which, I myself think, ought not to have been reckoned, because the percipient had been sitting up with the sick man. This he would class as a 'suspicious' case. But, even granting him his own way of handling the statistics, he would still have far too large a proportion of coincidences for the laws of chance to allow, if we are to go by these statistics at all.
His next argument practically is that hallucinations are always only a kind of dreams. He proves this by the large number of coincidental hallucinations which occurred in sleepy circumstances. One man went to bed early, and woke up early; another was 'roused from sleep;' two ladies were sitting up in bed, giving their babies nourishment; a man was reading a newspaper on a sofa; a lady was lying awake at seven in the morning; and there are eight other English cases of people 'awake' in bed during an hallucination. Now, in Dr. Parish's opinion, we must argue that they were not awake, or not much; so the hallucinations were mere dreams. Dreams are so numerous that coincidences in dreams can be got rid of as pure flukes. People may say, to be sure, 'I am used to dreams, and don't regard them; this was something solitary in my experience.' But we must not mind what people say.
Yet I fear we must mind what they say. At least, we must remember that sleeping dreams are, of all things, most easily forgotten; while a full-bodied hallucination, when we, at least, believe ourselves awake, seems to us on a perfectly different plane of impressiveness, and (experto crede) is really very difficult to forget. Herr Parish cannot be allowed, therefore, to use the regular eighteenth-century argument-- 'All dreams!' For the two sorts of dreams, in sleep and in apparent wakefulness, seem, to the subject, to differ in kind. And they really do differ in kind. It is the essence of the every night dream that we are unconscious of our actual surroundings and conscious of a fantastic environment. It is the essence of wideawakeness to be conscious of our actual surroundings. In the ordinary dream, nothing actual competes with its visions. When we are conscious of our surroundings, everything actual does compete with any hallucination. Therefore, an hallucination which, when we are conscious of our material environment, does compete with it in reality, is different in kind from an ordinary dream. Science gains nothing by arbitrarily declaring that two experiences so radically different are identical. Anybody would see this if he were not arguing under a dominant idea.
Herr Parish next contends that people who see pictures in crystal balls, and so on, are not so wide awake as to be in their normal consciousness. There is 'dissociation' (practically drowsiness), even if only a little. Herr Moll also speaks of crystal-gazing pictures as 'hypnotic phenomena.' Possibly neither of these learned men has ever seen a person attempt crystal-gazing. Herr Parish never asserts any such personal experience as the basis of his opinion about the non-normal state of the gazer. He reaches this conclusion from an anecdote reported, as a not unfamiliar phenomenon, by a friend of Miss X. But the phenomenon occurred when Miss X. was not crystal-gazing at all! She was looking out of a window in a brown study. This is a noble example of logic. Some one says that Miss X. was not in her normal consciousness on a certain occasion when she was not crystal-gazing, and that this condition is familiar to the observer. Therefore, argues Herr Parish, nobody is in his normal consciousness when he is crystal-gazing.
In vain may 'so good an observer as Miss X. think herself fully awake' (as she does think herself) when crystal-gazing, because once, when she happened to have 'her eyes fixed on the window,' her expression was 'associated' by a friend 'with something uncanny,' and she afterwards spoke 'in a dreamy, far-away tone' (p. 297). Miss X., though extremely 'wide awake,' may have looked dreamily at a window, and may have seen mountains and marvels. But the point is that she was not voluntarily gazing at a crystal for amusement or experiment--perhaps trying to see how a microscope affected the pictures--or to divert a friend.
I appeal to the shades of Aristotle and Bacon against scientific logic in the hands of Herr Parish. Here is his syllogism:
A. is occasionally dreamy when not crystal-gazing.
A. is human.
Therefore every human being, when crystal-gazing, is more or less asleep.
He infers a general affirmative from a single affirmative which happens not to be to the point. It is exactly as if Herr Parish argued:
Mrs. B. spends hours in shopping.
Mrs. B. is human.
Therefore every human being is always late for dinner.
Miss X., I think, uplifted her voice in some review, and maintained that, when crystal-gazing, she was quite in her normal state, dans son assiette.
Yet Herr Parish would probably say to any crystal-gazer who argued thus, 'Oh, no; pardon me, you were not wholly awake--you were a-dream. I know better than you.' But, as he has not seen crystal-gazers, while I have, many scores of times, I prefer my own opinion. And so, as this assertion about the percipient's being 'dissociated,' or asleep, or not awake, is certainly untrue of all crystal-gazers in my considerable experience, I cannot accept it on the authority of Herr Parish, who makes no claim to any personal experience at all.
As to crystal-gazing, when the gazer is talking, laughing, chatting, making experiments in turning the ball, changing the light, using prisms and magnifying-glasses, dropping matches into the water-jug, and so on, how can we possibly say that 'it is impossible to distinguish between waking hallucinations and those of sleep' (p. 300)? If so, it is impossible to distinguish between sleeping and waking altogether. We are all like the dormouse! Herr Parish is reasoning here a priori, without any personal knowledge of the facts; and, above all, he is under the 'dominant idea' of his own theory--that of dissociation.
Herr Parish next crushes telepathy by an argument which--like one of the reasons why the bells were not rung for Queen Elizabeth, namely, that there were no bells to ring--might have come first, and alone. We are told (in italics--very impressive to the popular mind): 'No matter how great the number of coincidences, they afford not even the shadow of a proof for telepathy' (p. 301). What, not even if all hallucinations, or ninety-nine per cent., coincided with the death of the person seen? In heaven's name, why not? Why, because the 'weightiest' cause of all has been omitted from our calculations, namely, our good old friend, the association of ideas (p. 302). Our side cannot prove the absence (italics) of the association of ideas. Certainly we cannot; but ideas in endless millions are being associated all day long. A hundred thousand different, unnoticed associations may bring Jones to my mind, or Brown. But I don't therefore see Brown, or Jones, who is not there. Still less do I see Dr. Parish, or Nebuchadnezzar, or a monkey, or a salmon, or a golf ball, or Arthur's Seat (all of which may be brought to my mind by association of ideas), when they are not present.
Suppose, then, that once in my life I see the absent Jones, who dies in that hour (or within twelve hours). I am puzzled. Why did Association choose that day, of all days in my life, for her solitary freak? And, if this choice of freaks by Association occurs among other people, say two hundred times more often than chance allows, the freak begins to suggest that it may have a cause.
Not even the circumstance cited by Herr Parish, that a drowsy tailor, 'sewing on in a dream,' poor fellow, saw a client in his shop while the client was dying, solves the problem. The tailor is not said even once to have seen a customer who was not dying; yet he writes, 'I was accustomed to work all night frequently.' The tailor thinks he was asleep, because he had been making irregular stitches, and perhaps he was. But, out of all his vigils and all his customers, association only formed one hallucination, and that was of a dying client whom he supposed to be perfectly well. Why on earth is association so fond of dying people-- granting the statistics, which are 'another story'? The explanation explains nothing. Herr Parish only moves the difficulty back a step, and, as we cannot live without association of ideas, they are taken for granted by our side. Association of ideas does not cause hallucinations, as Mrs. Sidgwick remarks, though it may determine their contents.
The difficult theme of coincidental collective hallucinations, as when two or more people at once have, or profess to have, the same false perception of a person who is really absent and dying, is next disposed of by Herr Parish. The same points de repère, the same sound, or flicker of light, or arrangement of shadow, may beget the same or a similar false perception in two or more people at once. Thus two girls, in different rooms, are looking out on different parts of the hall in their house. 'Both heard, at the same time, an [objective?] noise' (p. 313). Then, says Herr Parish, 'the one sister saw her father cross the hall after entering; the other saw the dog (the usual companion of his walks) run past her door.' Father and dog had not left the dining-room. Herr Parish decides that the same point de repère (the apparent noise of a key in the lock of the front door) 'acted by way of suggestion on both sisters,' producing, however, different hallucinations, 'in virtue of the difference of the connected associations.' One girl associated the sound with her honoured sire, the other with his faithful hound; so one saw a dog, and the other saw an elderly gentleman. Now, first, if so, this should always be occurring, for we all have different associations of ideas. Thus, we are in a haunted house; there is a noise of a rattling window; I associate it with a burglar, Brown with a milkman, Miss Jones with a lady in green, Miss Smith with a knight in armour. That collection of phantasms should then be simultaneously on view, like the dog and old gentleman; all our reports should vary. But this does not occur. Most unluckily for Herr Parish, he illustrates his theory by telling a story which happens not to be correctly reported. At first I thought that a fallacy of memory, or an optical delusion, had betrayed him again, as in his legend of the waistcoat. But I am now inclined to believe that what really occurred was this: Herr Parish brought out his book in German, before the Report of the Census of Hallucinations was published. In his German edition he probably quoted a story which precisely suited his theory of the origin of collective hallucinations. This anecdote he had found in Prof. Sidgwick's Presidential Address of July 1890. As stated by Prof. Sidgwick, the case just fitted Herr Parish, who refers to it on p. 190, and again on p. 314. He gives no reference, but his version reads like a traditional variant of Prof. Sidgwick's. Now Prof. Sidgwick's version was erroneous, as is proved by the elaborate account of the case in the Report of the Census, which Herr Parish had before him, but neglected when he prepared his English edition. The story was wrong, alas! in the very point where, for Herr Parish's purpose, it ought to have been right. The hallucination is believed not to have been collective, yet Herr Parish uses it to explain collective hallucinations. Doubtless he overlooked the accurate version in the Report.
The facts, as there reported, were not what he narrates, but as follows:
Miss C.E. was in the breakfast-room, about 6:30 P.M., in January 1883, and supposed her father to be taking a walk with his dog. She heard noises, which may have had any other cause, but which she took to be the sounds of a key in the door lock, a stick tapping the tiles of the hall, and the patter of the dog's feet on the tiles. She then saw the dog pass the door. Miss C.E. next entered the hall, where she found nobody; but in the pantry she met her sisters--Miss E., Miss H.G.E.--and a working-woman. Miss E. and the working-woman had been in the hall, and there had heard the sound, which they, like Miss C.E., took for that of a key in the lock. They were breaking a little household rule in the hall, so they 'ran straightway into the pantry, meeting Miss H.G.E. on the way.' Miss C.E. and Miss E. and the working-woman all heard the noise as of a key in the lock, but nobody is said to have 'seen the father cross the hall' (as Herr Parish asserts). 'Miss H.G.E. was of opinion that Miss E. (now dead) saw nothing, and Miss C.E. was inclined to agree with her.' Miss E. and the work-woman (now dead) were 'emphatic as to the father having entered the house;' but this the two only inferred from hearing the noise, after which they fled to the pantry. Now, granting that some other noise was mistaken for that of the key in the lock, we have here, not (as Herr Parish declares) a collective yet discrepant hallucination--the discrepancy being caused 'by the difference of connected associations'-- but a solitary hallucination. Herr Parish, however, inadvertently converts a solitary into a collective hallucination, and then uses the example to explain collective hallucinations in general. He asserts that Miss E. 'saw her father cross the hall.' Miss E.'s sisters think that she saw no such matter. Now, suppose that Mr. E. had died at the moment, and that the case was claimed on our part as a 'collective coincidental hallucination,' How righteously Herr Parish might exclaim that all the evidence was against its being collective! The sound in the lock, heard by three persons, would be, and probably was, another noise misinterpreted. And, in any case, there is no evidence for its having produced two hallucinations; the evidence is in exactly the opposite direction.
Here, then, Herr Parish, with the printed story under his eyes, once more illustrates want of attention. In one way his errors improve his case. 'If I, a grave man of science, go on telling distorted legends out of my own head, while the facts are plain in print before me,' Herr Parish may reason, 'how much more are the popular tales about coincidental hallucinations likely to be distorted?' It is really a very strong argument, but not exactly the argument which Herr Parish conceives himself to be presenting.
This unlucky inexactitude is chronic, as we have shown, in Herr Parish's work, and is probably to be explained by inattention to facts, by 'expectation' of suitable facts, and by 'anxiety' to prove a theory. He explains the similar or identical reports of witnesses to a collective hallucination by 'the case with which such appearances adapt themselves in recollection' (p. 313), especially, of course, after lapse of time. And then he unconsciously illustrates his case by the case with which printed facts under his very eyes adapt themselves, quite erroneously, to his own memory and personal bias as he copies them on to his paper.
Finally he argues that even if collective hallucinations are also 'with comparative frequency' coincidental, that is to be explained thus: 'The rarity and the degree of interest compelled by it' (by such an hallucination) 'will naturally tend to connect itself with some other prominent event; and, conversely, the occurrence of such an event as the death or mortal danger of a friend is most calculated to produce memory illusions of this kind.'
In the second case, the excitement caused by the death of a friend is likely, it seems, to make two or more sane people say, and believe, that they saw him somewhere else, when he was really dying. The only evidence for this fact is that such illusions occasionally occur, not collectively, in some lunatic asylums. 'It is not, however, a form of mnemonic error often observed among the insane.' 'Kraepelin gives two cases.' 'The process occurs sporadically in certain sane people, under certain exciting conditions.' No examples are given! What is rare as an individual folly among lunatics, is supposed by Herr Parish to explain the theoretically 'false memory' whereby sane people persuade themselves that they had an hallucination, and persuade others that they were told of it, when no such thing occurred.
To return to our old example. Jones tells me that he has just seen his aunt, whom he knows to be in Timbuctoo. News comes that the lady died when Jones beheld her in his smoking-room. 'Oh, nonsense,' Herr Parish would argue, 'you, Jones, saw nothing of the kind, nor did you tell Mr. Lang, who, I am sorry to find, agrees with you. What happened was this: When the awful news came to-day of your aunt's death, you were naturally, and even creditably, excited, especially as the poor lady was killed by being pegged down on an ant-heap. This excitement, rather praiseworthy than otherwise, made you believe you had seen your aunt, and believe you had told Mr. Lang. He also is a most excitable person, though I admit he never saw your dear aunt in his life. He, therefore (by virtue of his excitement), now believes you told him about seeing your unhappy kinswoman. This kind of false memory is very common. Two cases are recorded by Kraepelin, among the insane. Surely you quite understand my reasoning?'
I quite understand it, but I don't see how it comes to seem good logic to Herr Parish.
The other theory is funnier still. Jones never had an hallucination before. 'The rarity and the degree of interest compelled by it' made Jones 'connect it with some other prominent event,' say, the death of his aunt, which, really, occurred, say, nine months afterwards. But this is a mere case of evidence, which it is the affair of the S.P.R. to criticise.
Herr Parish is in the happy position called in American speculative circles 'a straddle.' If a man has an hallucination when alone, he was in circumstances conducive to the sleeping state. So the hallucination is probably a dream. But, if the seer was in company, who all had the same hallucination, then they all had the same points de repère, and the same adaptive memories. So Herr Parish kills with both barrels.
If anything extraneous could encourage a belief in coincidental and veridical hallucinations, it would be these 'Oppositions of Science.' If a learned and fair opponent can find no better proofs than logic and (unconscious) perversions of facts like the logic and the statements of Herr Parish, the case for telepathic hallucinations may seem strong indeed. But we must grant him the existence of the adaptive and mythopoeic powers of memory, which he asserts, and also illustrates. I grant, too, that a census of 17,000 inquiries may only have 'skimmed the cream off' (p. 87). Another dip of the net, bringing up 17,000 fresh answers, might alter the whole aspect of the case, one way or the other. Moreover, we cannot get scientific evidence in this way of inquiry. If the public were interested in the question, and understood its nature, and if everybody who had an hallucination at once recorded it in black and white, duly attested on oath before a magistrate, by persons to whom he reported, before the coincidence was known, and if all such records, coincidental or not, were kept in the British Museum for fifty years, then an examination of them might teach us something. But all this is quite impossible. We may form a belief, on this point of veridical hallucinations, for ourselves, but beyond that it is impossible to advance. Still, Science might read her brief!
[Footnote 1: Walter Scott.]
[Footnote 2: Parish, p. 278.]
[Footnote 3: Ibid. pp. 282, 283.]
[Footnote 4: P. 287, Mr. Sims, Proceedings, x. 230.]
[Footnote 5: Parish pp. 288, 289.]
[Footnote 6: Report, p. 68.]
[Footnote 7: P. 274, note 1.]
[Footnote 8: Parish, p. 290.]
[Footnote 9: Report, p. 297.]
[Footnote 10: Parish, p. 290.]
[Footnote 11: Pp. 291, 292.]
[Footnote 12: Moll, Hypnotism, p. 1.]
[Footnote 13 Proceedings, vol. vi. p. 433.]
[Footnote 14: Parish, p. 313.]
[Footnote 15: Compare Report, pp. 181-83, with Parish, pp. 190 and 313, 314.]
THE POLTERGEIST AND HIS EXPLAINERS.
In the chapter on 'Fetishism and Spiritualism' it was suggested that the movements of inanimate objects, apparently without contact, may have been one of the causes leading to fetishism, to the opinion that a spirit may inhabit a stick, stone, or what not. We added that, whether such movements were caused by trickery or not, was inessential as long as the savage did not discover the imposture.
The evidence for the genuine supernormal character of such phenomena was not discussed, that we might preserve the continuity of the general argument. The history of such phenomena is too long for statement here. The same reports are found 'from China to Peru,' from Eskimo to the Cape, from Egyptian magical papyri to yesterday's provincial newspaper.
About 1850-1870 phenomena, which had previously been reported as of sporadic and spontaneous occurrence, were domesticated and organised by Mediums, generally American. These were imitators of the enigmatic David Dunglas Home, who was certainly a most oddly gifted man, or a most successful impostor. A good deal of scientific attention was given to the occurrences; Mr. Darwin, Mr. Tyndall, Dr. Carpenter, Mr. Huxley, had all glanced at the phenomena, and been present at séances. In most cases the exhibitions, in the dark, or in a very bad light, were impudent impostures, and were so regarded by the savants who looked into them. A series of exposures culminated in the recent detection of Eusapia Paladino by Dr. Hodgson and other members of the S.P.R. at Cambridge.
There was, however, an apparent exception. The arch mystagogue, Home, though by no means a clever man, was never detected in fraudulent productions of fetishistic phenomena. This is asserted here because several third-hand stories of detected frauds by Home are in circulation, and it is hoped that a well-attested first-hand case of detection may be elicited.
Of Home's successes with Sir William Crookes, Lord Crawford, and others, something remains to be said; but first we shall look into attempted explanations of alleged physical phenomena occurring not in the presence of a paid or even of a recognised 'Medium.' It will appear, we think, that the explanations of evidence so widely diffused, so uniform, so old, and so new, are far from satisfactory. Our inference would be no more than that our eyes should be kept on such phenomena, if they are reported to recur.
Mr. Tylor says, 'I am well aware that the problem [of these phenomena] is one to be discussed on its merits, in order to arrive at a distinct opinion how far it may be connected with facts insufficiently appreciated and explained by science, and how far with superstition, delusion, and sheer knavery. Such investigation, pursued by careful observation in a scientific spirit, would seem apt to throw light on some interesting psychological questions.'
Acting on Mr. Tylor's hint, Mr. Podmore puts forward as explanations (1) fraud; (2) hallucinations caused by excited expectation, and by the Schwärmerei consequent on sitting in hushed hope of marvels.
To take fraud first: Mr. Podmore has collected, and analyses, eleven recent sporadic cases of volatile objects. His first instance (Worksop, 1883) yields no proof of fraud, and can only be dismissed by reason of the bad character of the other cases, and because Mr. Podmore took the evidence five weeks after the events. To this example we confine ourselves. This case appears to have been first reported in the 'Retford and Gainsborough Times' 'early in March,' 1883 (really March 9). It does not seem to have struck Mr. Podmore that he should publish these contemporary reports, to show us how far they agree with evidence collected by him on the spot five weeks later. To do this was the more necessary, as he lays so much stress on failure of memory. I have therefore secured the original newspaper report, by the courtesy of the editor. To be brief, the phenomena began on February 20 or 21, by the table voluntarily tipping up, and upsetting a candle, while Mrs. White only saved the wash tub by alacrity and address. 'The whole incident struck her as very extraordinary.' It is not in the newspaper report. On February 26, Mr. White left his home, and a girl, Eliza Rose, 'child of a half-imbecile mother,' was admitted by the kindness of Mrs. White to share her bed. The girl was eighteen years of age, was looking for a place as servant, and nothing is said in the newspaper about her mother. Mr. White returned on Wednesday night, but left on Thursday morning, returning on Friday afternoon. On Thursday, in Mr. White's absence, phenomena set in. On Thursday night, in Mr. White's presence, they increased in vigour. A doctor was called in, also a policeman. On Saturday, at 8 A.M., the row recommenced. At 4 P.M. Mr. White sent Eliza Rose away, and peace returned. We now offer the
STATEMENT OF POLICE CONSTABLE HIGGS. A man of good intelligence, and believed to be entirely honest....
'On the night of Friday, March 2nd, I heard of the disturbances at Joe White's house from his young brother, Tom. I went round to the house at 11.55 P.M., as near as I can judge, and found Joe White in the kitchen of his house. There was one candle lighted in the room, and a good fire burning, so that one could see things pretty clearly. The cupboard doors were open, and White went and shut them, and then came and stood against the chest of drawers. I stood near the outer door. No one else was in the room at the time. White had hardly shut the cupboard doors when they flew open, and a large glass jar came out past me, and pitched in the yard outside, smashing itself. I didn't see the jar leave the cupboard, or fly through the air; it went too quick. But I am quite sure that it wasn't thrown by White or any one else. White couldn't have done it without my seeing him. The jar couldn't go in a straight line from the cupboard out of the door; but it certainly did go.
'Then White asked me to come and see the things which had been smashed in the inner room. He led the way and I followed. As I passed the chest of drawers in the kitchen I noticed a tumbler standing on it. Just after I passed I heard a crash, and looking round, I saw that the tumbler had fallen on the ground in the direction of the fireplace, and was broken. I don't know how it happened. There was no one else in the room.
'I went into the inner room, and saw the bits of pots and things on the floor, and then I came back with White into the kitchen. The girl Rose had come into the kitchen during our absence. She was standing with her back against the bin near the fire. There was a cup standing on the bin, rather nearer the door. She said to me, "Cup'll go soon; it has been down three times already." She then pushed it a little farther on the bin, and turned round and stood talking to me by the fire. She had hardly done so, when the cup jumped up suddenly about four or five feet into the air, and then fell on the floor and smashed itself. White was sitting on the other side of the fire.
'Then Mrs. White came in with Dr. Lloyd; also Tom White and Solomon Wass. After they had been in two or three minutes, something else happened. Tom White and Wass were standing with their backs to the fire, just in front of it. Eliza Rose and Dr. Lloyd were near them, with their backs turned towards the bin, the doctor nearer to the door. I stood by the drawers, and Mrs. White was by me near the inner door. Then suddenly a basin, which stood on the end of the bin near the door, got up into the air, turning over and over as it went. It went up not very quickly, not as quickly as if it had been thrown. When it reached the ceiling it fell plump and smashed. I called Dr. Lloyd's attention to it, and we all saw it. No one was near it, and I don't know how it happened. I stayed about ten minutes more, but saw nothing else. I don't know what to make of it all. I don't think White or the girl could possibly have done the things which I saw.'
This statement was made five weeks after date to Mr. Podmore. We compare it with the intelligent constable's statement made between March 3 and March 8, that is, immediately after the events, and reported in the local paper of March 9.
STATEMENT BY POLICE CONSTABLE HIGGS.--During Friday night, Police Constable Higgs visited the house, and concerning the visit he makes the following statement.
'About ten minutes past [to?] twelve on Friday night, I was met in Bridge Street by Buck Ford, and Joe's brother, Tom White and Dr. Lloyd. Tom said to me, "Will you go with us to Joe's, and you will see something you have never seen before?" I went; and when I got into the house Joe went and shut the cupboard doors. No sooner had he done so than the doors flew open again, and an ordinary sized glass jar flew across the kitchen, out of the door into the yard. A sugar jar also flew out of the cupboard unseen. In fact, we saw nothing and heard nothing until we heard it smash. The distance travelled by the articles was about seven yards. I stood a minute or two, and then the glass which I noticed on the drawers jumped off the drawers a yard away, and broke in about a hundred bits. The next thing was a cup, which stood on the flour-bin just beyond the yard door. It flew upwards, and then fell to the ground and broke. The girl said that this cup had been on the floor three times, and that she had picked it up just before it went off the bench. I said, "I suppose the cup will be the next." The cup fell a distance of two yards away from the flour-bin. Dr. Lloyd had been in the next house lancing the back of a little boy who had been removed there. He now came in, and we began talking, the doctor saying, "It is a most mysterious thing." He turned with his back to the flour-bin, on which stood a basin. The basin flew up into the air obliquely, went over the doctor's head, and fell at his feet in pieces. The doctor then went out. I stood a short time longer, but saw nothing farther. There were six persons in the room while these things were going on, and so far as I could see, there was no human agency at work. I had not the slightest belief in anything appertaining to the super-natural. I left just before one o'clock, having been in the house thirty minutes.'
As the policeman says, there was nothing 'super-natural,' but there was an appearance of something rather supernormal. On the afternoon of Saturday White sent the girl Rose away, and a number of people watched in his house till after midnight. Though the sceptical reporter thought that objects were placed where they might easily be upset, none were upset. The ghost was laid. 'Excited expectation' was so false to its function as to beget no phenomena.
The newspaper reports contain no theory that will account for White's breaking his furniture and crockery, nor for Rose's securing her own dismissal from a house where she was kindly received by wilfully destroying the property of her hostess. An amateur published a theory of silken threads attached to light articles, and thick cords to heavy articles, whereof no trace was found by witnesses who examined the volatile objects. An elaborate machinery of pulleys fixed in the ceiling, the presence of a trickster in a locked pantry, apparent errors in the account of the flight of the objects, and a number of accomplices, were all involved in this local explanation, the explainer admitting that he could not imagine why the tricks were played. Six or eight pounds' worth of goods were destroyed, nor is it singular that poor Mrs. White wept over her shattered penates.
The destruction began, of course, in the absence of White. The girl Rose gave to the newspaper the same account as the other witnesses, but, as White thought she was the agent, so she suspected White, though she admitted that he was not at home when the trouble arose.
Mr. Podmore, reviewing the case, says, 'The phenomena described are quite inexplicable by ordinary mechanical means. Yet he elsewhere suggests that Rose herself, 'as the instrument of mysterious agencies, or simply as a half-witted girl, gifted with abnormal cunning and love of mischief, may have been directly responsible for all that took place.' That is to say, a half-witted girl could do (barring 'mysterious agencies') 'what is quite inexplicable by ordinary mechanical means,' while, according to the policeman, she was not even present on some occasions. But it is not easy to make out, in the evidence of White, the other witness, whether this girl Rose was present or not when the jar flew circuitously out of the cupboard, a thing easily worked by a half-witted girl. Such discrepancies are common in all evidence to the most ordinary events. In any case a half-witted girl, in Mr. Podmore's theory, can do what 'is quite inexplicable by ordinary mechanical means.' There is not the shadow of evidence that the girl Rose had the inestimable advantage of being 'half-witted;' she is described by Mr. Podmore as 'the child of an imbecile mother.' The phenomena began, in an isolated case (the tilted table), before Rose entered the house. She was admitted in kindness, acted as a maid, and her interest was not to break the crockery and upset furniture. The troubles, which began before the girl's arrival, were apparently active when she was not present, and, if she was present, she could not have caused them 'by ordinary mechanical means,' while of extraordinary mechanical means there was confessedly no trace. The disturbances ceased after she was dismissed--nothing else connects her with them.
Mr. Podmore's attempt at a normal explanation by fraud, therefore, is of no weight. He has to exaggerate the value, as disproof, of such discrepancies as occur in all human evidence on all subjects. He has to lay stress on the interval of five weeks between the events and the collection of testimony by himself. But contemporary accounts appeared in the local newspapers, and he does not compare the contemporary with the later evidence, as we have done. There is one discrepancy which looks as if a witness, not here cited, came to think he had seen what he heard talked about. Finally, after abandoning the idea that mechanical means can possibly have produced the effect, Mr. Podmore falls back on the cunning of a half-witted girl whom nothing shows to have been half-witted. The alternative is that the girl was 'the instrument of mysterious agencies.'
So much for the hypothesis of a fraud, which has been identical in results from China to Peru and from Greenland to the Cape.
We now turn to the other, and concomitantly active cause, in Mr. Podmore's theory, hallucination. 'Many of the witnesses described the articles as moving slowly through the air, or exhibiting some peculiarity of flight.' (See e.g. the Worksop case.) Mr. Podmore adds another English case, presently to be noted, and a German one. 'In default of any experimental evidence' (how about Mr. William Crookes's?) 'that disturbances of this kind are ever due to abnormal agency, I am disposed to explain the appearance of moving slowly or flying as a sensory illusion, conditioned by the excited state of the percipient.' ('Studies,' 157, 158.)
Before criticising this explanation, let us give the English affair, alluded to by Mr. Podmore.
The most curious modern case known to me is not of recent date, but it occurred in full daylight, in the presence of many witnesses, and the phenomena continued for weeks. The events were of 1849, and the record is expanded, by Mr. Bristow, a spectator, from an account written by him in 1854. The scene was Swanland, near Hull, in a carpenter's shop, where Mr. Bristow was employed with two fellow workmen. To be brief, they were pelted by odds and ends of wood, about the size of a common matchbox. Each blamed the others, till this explanation became untenable. The workrooms and space above were searched to no purpose. The bits of wood sometimes danced along the floor, more commonly sailed gently along, or "moved as if borne on gently heaving waves." This sort of thing was repeated during six weeks. One piece of wood "came from a distant corner of the room towards me, describing what may be likened to a geometrical square, or corkscrew of about eighteen inches diameter.... Never was a piece seen to come in at the doorway." Mr. Bristow deems this period 'the most remarkable episode in my life.' (June 27, 1891.) The phenomena 'did not depend on the presence of any one person or number of persons.'
Going to Swanland, in 1891, Mr. Sidgwick found one surviving witness of these occurrences, who averred that the objects could not have been thrown because of the eccentricities of their course, which he described in the same way as Mr. Bristow. The thrower must certainly have had a native genius for 'pitching' at base-ball. This witness, named Andrews, was mentioned by Mr. Bristow in his report, but not referred to by him for confirmation. Those to whom he referred were found to be dead, or had emigrated. The villagers had a superstitious theory about the phenomena being provoked by a dead man, whose affairs had not been settled to his liking. So Mr. Darwin's spoon danced--on a grave.
This case has a certain interest à propos of Mr. Podmore's surmise that all such phenomena arise in trickery, which produces excitement in the spectators, while excitement begets hallucination, and hallucination takes the form of seeing the thrown objects move in a non-natural way. Thus, I keep throwing things about. You, not detecting this stratagem, get excited, consequently hallucinated, and you believe you see the things move in spirals, or undulate as if on waves, or hop, or float, or glide in an impossible way. So close is the uniformity of hallucination that these phenomena are described, in similar terms, by witnesses (hallucinated, of course) in times old and new, as in cases cited by Glanvil, Increase Mather, Telfer (of Rerrick), and, generally, in works of the seventeenth century. Nor is this uniform hallucination confined to England. Mr. Podmore quotes a German example, and I received a similar testimony (to the flight of an object round a corner) from a gentleman who employed Esther Teed, 'the Amherst Mystery,' in his service. He was not excited, for he was normally engaged in his normal stable, when the incident occurred unexpectedly as he was looking after his live stock. One may add the case of Cideville (1851) and Sir W. Crookes's evidence, and that of Mr. Schhapoff.
Mr. Podmore must, therefore, suppose that, in states of excitement, the same peculiar form of hallucination develops itself uniformly in America, France, Germany, and England (not to speak of Russia), and persists through different ages. This is a novel and valuable psychological law. Moreover, Mr. Podmore must hold that 'excitement' lasted for six weeks among the carpenters in the shop at Swanland, one of whom writes like a man of much intelligence, and has thriven to be a master in his craft. It is difficult to believe that he was excited for six weeks, and we still marvel that excitement produces the same uniformity of hallucination, affecting policemen, carpenters, marquises, and a F.R.S. We allude to Sir W. Crookes's case.
Strictly scientific examination of these prodigies has been very rare. The best examples are the experiments of Sir William Crookes, F.R.S., with Home. He demonstrated, by means of a machine constructed for the purpose, and automatically registering, that, in Home's presence, a balance was affected to the extent of two pounds when Home was not in contact with the table on which the machine was placed. He also saw objects float in air, with a motion like that of a piece of wood on small waves of the sea (clearly excitement producing hallucination), while Home was at a distance, other spectators holding his hands, and his feet being visibly enclosed in a kind of cage. All present held each other's hands, and all witnessed the phenomena. Sir W. Crookes being, professionally, celebrated for the accuracy of his observations, these circumstances are difficult to explain, and these are but a few cases among multitudes.
I venture to conceive that, on reflection, Mr. Podmore will doubt whether he has discovered an universal law of excited malperception, or whether the remarkable, and certainly undesigned, coincidence of testimony to the singular flight of objects does not rather point to an 'abnormal agency' uniform in its effects. Contagious hallucination cannot affect witnesses ignorant of each other's existence in many lands and ages, nor could they cook their reports to suit reports of which they never heard.
We now turn to peculiarities in the so-called Medium, such as floating in air, change of bulk, and escape from lesion when handling or treading in fire. Mr. Tylor says nothing of Sir William Crookes's cases (1871), but speaks of the alleged levitation, or floating in air, of savages and civilised men. These are recorded in Buddhist and Neoplatonic writings, and among Red Indians, in Tonquin (where a Jesuit saw and described the phenomena, 1730), in the 'Acta Sanctorum,' and among modern spiritualists. In 1760, Lord Elcho, being at Home, was present at the procès for canonising a Saint (unnamed), and heard witnesses swear to having seen the holy man levitated. Sir W. Crookes attests having seen Home float in air on several occasions. In 1871, the Master of Lindsay, now Lord Crawford and Balcarres, F.R.S., gave the following evidence, which was corroborated by the two other spectators, Lord Adare and Captain Wynne.
'I was sitting with Mr. Home and Lord Adare and a cousin of his. During the sitting, Mr. Home went into a trance, and in that state was carried out of the window in the room next to where we were, and was brought in at our window. The distance between the windows was about seven feet six inches, and there was not the slightest foothold between them, nor was there more than a twelve-inch projection to each window, which served as a ledge to put flowers on. We heard the window in the next room lifted up, and almost immediately after we saw Home floating in the air outside our window. The moon was shining full into the room; my back was to the light, and I saw the shadow on the wall of the window sill, and Home's feet about six inches above it. He remained in this position for a few seconds, then raised the window and glided into the room feet foremost and sat down.
'Lord Adare then went into the next room to look at the window from which he had been carried. It was raised about eighteen inches, and he expressed his wonder how Mr. Home had been taken through so narrow an aperture. Home said, still entranced, "I will show you," and then with his back to the window he leaned back and was shot out of the aperture, head first, with the body rigid, and then returned quite quietly. The window is about seventy feet from the ground.' The hypothesis of a mechanical arrangement of ropes or supports outside has been suggested, but does not cover the facts as described.
Mr. Podmore, who quotes this, offers the explanation that the witnesses were excited, and that Home 'thrust his head and shoulders out of the window.' But, if he did, they could not see him do it, for he was in the next room. A brick wall was between them and him. Their first view of Home was 'floating in the air outside our window.' It is not very easy to hold that a belief to which the collective evidence is so large and universal, as the belief in levitation, was caused by a series of saints, sorcerers, and others thrusting their heads and, shoulders, out of windows where the observers could not see them. Nor in Lord Crawford's case is it easy to suppose that three educated men, if hallucinated, would all be hallucinated in the same way.
The argument of excited expectation and consequent hallucination does not apply to Mr. Hamilton Aïdé and M. Alphonse Karr, neither of whom was a man of science. Both were extremely prejudiced against Home, and at Nice went to see, and, if possible, to expose him. Home was a guest at a large villa in Nice, M. Karr and Mr. Aïdé were two of a party in a spacious brilliantly lighted salon, where Home received them. A large heavy table, remote from their group, moved towards them. M. Karr then got under a table which rose in air, and carefully examined the space beneath, while Mr. Aïdé observed it from above. Neither of them could discover any explanation of the phenomenon, and they walked away together, disgusted, disappointed, and reviling Home.
In this case there was neither excitement nor desire to believe, but a strong wish to disbelieve and to expose Home. If two such witnesses could be hallucinated, we must greatly extend our notion of the limits of the capacity for entertaining hallucinations.
One singular phenomenon was reported in Home's case, which has, however, little to do with any conceivable theory of spirits. He was said to become elongated in trance. Mr. Podmore explains that 'perhaps he really stretched himself to his full height'--one of the easiest ways conceivable of working a miracle, Iamblichus reports the same phenomenon in his possessed men. Iamblichus adds that they were sometimes broadened as well as lengthened. Now, M. Féré observes that 'any part of the body of an hysterical patient may change in volume, simply owing to the fact that the patient's attention is fixed on that part.' Conceivably the elongation of Home and the ancient Egyptian mediums may have been an extreme case of this 'change of volume.' Could this be proved by examples, Home's elongation would cease to be a 'miracle.' But it would follow that in this case observers were not hallucinated, and the presumption would be raised that they were not hallucinated in the other cases. Indeed, this argument is of universal application.
There is another class of 'physical phenomena,' which has no direct bearing on our subject. Many persons, in many ages, are said to have handled or walked through fire, not only without suffering pain, but without lesion of the skin. Iamblichus mentions this as among the peculiarities of his 'possessed' men; and in 'Modern Mythology' (1897) I have collected first-hand evidence for the feat in classical times, and in India, Fiji, Bulgaria, Trinidad, the Straits Settlements, and many other places. The evidence is that of travellers, officials, missionaries, and others, and is backed (for what photographic testimony is worth) by photographs of the performance. To hold glowing coals in his hand, and to communicate the power of doing so to others, was in Home's répertoire. Lord Crawford saw it done on eight occasions, and himself received from Home's hand the glowing coal unharmed. A friend of my own, however, still bears the blister of the hurt received in the process. Sir W. Crookes's evidence follows:
'At Mr. Home's request, whilst he was entranced, I went with him to the fireplace in the back drawing-room. He said, "We want you to notice particularly what Dan is doing." Accordingly I stood close to the fire, and stooped down to it when he put his hands in....
'Mr. Home then waved the handkerchief about in the air two or three times, held it above his head, and then folded it up and laid it on his hand like a cushion. Putting his other hand into the fire, he took out a large lump of cinder, red-hot at the lower part, and placed the red part on the handkerchief. Under ordinary circumstances it would have been in a blaze. In about half a minute he took it off the handkerchief with his hand, saying, "As the power is not strong, if we leave the coal longer it will burn." He then put it on his hand, and brought it to the table in the front room, where all but myself had remained seated.'
Mr. Podmore explains that only two candles and the fire gave light on one occasion, and that 'possibly' Home's hands were protected by some 'non-conducting substance.' He does not explain how this substance was put on Lord Crawford's hands, nor tell us what this valuable substance may be. None is known to science, though it seems to be known to Fijians, Tongans, Klings, and Bulgarians, who walk through fire unhurt.
It is not necessary to believe Sir W. Crookes's assertions that he saw Home perform the fire-tricks, for we can fall back on the lack of light (only two candles and the fire-light), as also on the law of hallucination caused by excitement. But it is necessary to believe this distinguished authority's statement about his ignorance of 'some non-conducting substance:'
'Schoolboys' books and mediaeval tales describe how this can be done with alum and other ingredients. It is possible that the skin may be so hardened and thickened by such preparations that superficial charring might take place without the pain becoming great; but the surface of the skin would certainly suffer severely. After Home had recovered from the trance, I examined his hand with care to see if there were any signs of burning or of previous preparation. I could detect no trace or injury to the skin, which was soft and delicate, like a woman's. Neither were there signs of any preparation having been previously applied. I have often seen conjurers and others handle red-hot coals and iron, but there were always palpable signs of burning.'
In September 1897 a crew of passengers went from New Zealand to see the Fijian rites, which, as reported in the 'Fiji Times,' corresponded exactly with the description published by Mr. Basil Thomson, himself a witness. The interesting point, historically, is the combination in Home of all the répertoire of the possessed men in Iamblichus. We certainly cannot get rid of the fire-trick by aid of a hypothetical 'non-conducting substance.' Till the 'substance' is tested experimentally it is not a vera causa. We might as well say 'spirits' at once. Both that 'substance' and those 'spirits' are equally 'in the air.' Yet Mr. Podmore's 'explanations' (not satisfactory to himself) are conceived so thoroughly in the spirit of popular science--one of them casually discovering a new psychological law, a second contradicting the facts it seeks to account for, a third generously inventing an unknown substance--that they ought to be welcomed by reviewers and lecturers.
It seems wiser to admit our ignorance and suspend our belief.
Here closes the futile chapter of explanations. Fraud is a vera causa, but an hypothesis difficult of application when it is admitted that the effects could not be caused by ordinary mechanical means. Hallucination, through excitement, is a vera causa, but its remarkable uniformity, as described by witnesses from different lands and ages, knowing nothing of each other, makes us hesitate to accept a sweeping hypothesis of hallucination. The case for it is not confirmed, when we have the same reports from witnesses certainly not excited.
This extraordinary bundle, then, of reports, practically identical, of facts paralysing to belief, this bundle made up of statements from so many ages and countries, can only be 'filed for reference.' But it is manifest that any savage who shared the experiences of Sir W. Crookes, Lord Crawford, Mr. Hamilton Aïdé, M. Robert de St. Victor at Cideville, and Policeman Higgs at Worksop, would believe that a spirit might tenant a stick or stone--so believing he would be a Fetishist. Thus even of Fetishism the probable origin is in a region of which we know nothing--the X region.
[Footnote 1: A sketch of the history will be found in the author's Cock Lane and Common Sense.]
[Footnote 2: The best source is his article on 'Poltergeists.' Proceedings xi. 45-116. See, too, his 'Poltergeists' in Studies in Psychical Research.]
[Footnote 3: Studies in Psychical Research, p. 140.]
[Footnote 4: See Preface to this edition for correction.]
[Footnote 5: Proceedings, S.P.R. vii. 383-394.]
[Footnote 6: See Sir W. Crookes's Researches in Spiritualism.]
[Footnote 7: Mr. Aïdé has given me this information. He recorded the circumstances in his Diary at the time.]
[Footnote 8: Report of Dialectical Society, p. 209.]
[Footnote 9: See Porphyry, in Parthey's edition (Berlin, 1857), iii. 4.]
[Footnote 10: Bulletin de la Société de Biologie, 1880, p. 399.]
[Footnote 11: Crookes, Proceedings, ix. 308.]
Since the chapter on crystal-gazing was in type, a work by Dr. Pierre Janet has appeared, styled 'Les Névroses et les Idées Fixes.' It contains a chapter on crystal-gazing. The opinion of Dr. Janet, as that of a savant familiar, at the Salpêtrière, with 'neurotic' visionaries, cannot but be interesting. Unluckily, the essay must be regarded as seriously impaired in value by Dr. Janet's singular treatment of his subject. Nothing is more necessary in these researches than accuracy of statement. Now, Dr. Janet has taken a set of experiences, or experiments, of Miss X.'s from that lady's interesting essay, already cited; has attributed them, not to Miss X., but to various people--for example, to une jeune fille, une pauvre voyante, une personne un peu mystique; has altered the facts in the spirit of romance; and has triumphantly given that explanation, revival of memory, which was assigned by Miss X. herself.
Throughout his paper Dr. Janet appears as the calm man of science pronouncing judgment on the visionary vagaries of 'haunted' young girls and disappointed seeresses. No such persons were concerned; no such hauntings, supposed premonitions, or 'disillusions' occurred; the romantic and 'marvellous' circumstances are mythopoeic accretions due to Dr. Janet's own memory or fancy; his scientific explanation is that given by his trinity of jeune fille, pauvre voyante, and personne un peu mystique.
Being much engaged in the study of 'neurotic' and hysterical patients, Dr. Janet thinks that they are most apt to see crystal visions. Perhaps they are; and one doubts if their descriptions are more to be trusted than the romantic essay of their medical attendant. In citing Miss X.'s paper (as he did), Dr. Janet ought to have reported her experiments correctly, ought to have attributed them to herself, and should, decidedly, have remarked that the explanation he offered was her own hypothesis, verified by her own exertions.
Not having any acquaintances in neurotic circles, I am unable to say whether such persons supply more cases of the faculty of crystal vision than ordinary people; while their word, one would think, is much less to be trusted than that of men and women in excellent health. The crystal visions which I have cited from my own knowledge (and I could cite scores of others) were beheld by men and women engaged in the ordinary duties of life. Students, barristers, novelists, lawyers, school-masters, school-mistresses, golfers--to all of whom the topic was perfectly new--have all exhibited the faculty. It is curious that an Arabian author of the thirteenth century, Ibn Khaldoun, cited by M. Lefébure, offers the same account of how the visions appear as that given by Miss Angus in the Journal of the S.P.R., April 1898. M. Lefébure's citation was sent to me in a letter.
I append M. Lefébure's quotation from Ibn Khaldoun. The original is translated in 'Notices et Extraits des MSS. de la Bibliothèque Impériale,' I. xix. p. 643-645.
'Ibn Kaldoun admet que certains hommes ont la faculté de deviner l'avenir.
'"Ceux, ajoute-t-il, qui regardent dans les corps diaphanes, tels que les miroirs, les cuvettes remplies d'eau et les liquides; ceux qui inspectent les coeurs, les foies et les os des animaux, ... tous ces gens-là appartiennent aussi à la catégorie des devins, mais, à cause de l'imperfection de leur nature, ils y occupent un rang inférieur. Pour écarter le voile des sens, le vrai devin n'a pas besoin de grands efforts; quant aux autres, ils tâchent d'arriver au but en essayant de concentrer en un seul sens toutes leurs perceptions. Comme la vue est le sens le plus noble, ils lui donnent la préférence; fixant leur regard sur on objet à superficie unie, ils le considèrent avec attention jusqu'à ce qu'ils y aperçoivent la chose qu'ils veulent annoncer. Quelques personnes croient que l'image aperçue de cette manière se dessine sur la surface du miroir; mais ils se trompent. Le devin regarde fixement cette surface jusqu'à ce qu'elle disparaisse et qu'un rideau, semblable à un brouillard, s'interpose entre lui et le miroir. Sur ce rideau se dessinent les choses qu'il désira apercevoir, et cela lui permet de donner des indications soit affirmatives, soit négatives, sur ce que l'on désire savoir. Il raconte alors les perceptions telles qu'il les reçoit. Les devins, pendant qu'ils sont dans cet état, n'aperçoivent pas ce qui se voit réellement dans le miroir; c'est un autre mode de perception qui naît chez eux et qui s'opère, non pas au moyen de la vue, mais de l'âme. Il est vrai que, pour eux, les perceptions de l'âme ressemblent à celles des sens au point de les tromper; fait qui, du reste, est bien connu. La même chose arrive à ceux qui examinent les coeurs et les foies d'animaux. Nous avons vu quelques-uns de ces individus entraver l'opération des sens par l'emploi de simples fumigations, puis se servir d'incantations afin de donner à l'âme la disposition requise; ensuite ils racontent ce qu'ils ont aperçu. Ces formes, disent-ils, se montrent dans l'air et représentent des personnages: elles leur apprennent, au moyen d'emblèmes et de signes, les choses qu'ils cherchent à savoir. Les individus de cette classe se détachent moins de l'influence des sens que ceux de la classe précédente."'
[Footnote 1: Lican, Paris, 1898.]
[Footnote 2: L'auteur arabe avait déjà mentionné (p. 209) l'emploi des incantations et indiqué qu'elles étuient un simple adjuvant physique destiné à donner à certains hommes une exaltation dont ils se servaient pour tâcher de découvrir l'avenir.
'Pour arriver au plus haut degré d'inspiration dont il est capable, le devin doit avoir recours à l'emploi de certaines phrases qui se distinguent par une cadence et un parallelisme particuliers. Il essaye ce moyen afin de soustraire son âme aux influences des sens et de lui donner assez de force pour se mettre dans un contact imparfait avec le monde spirituel.[a] Cette agitation d'esprit, jointe à l'emploi des moyens intrinsèques dont nous avons parlé, excite dans son coeur des idées que cet organe exprime par le ministère de la langne. Les paroles qu'il prononce sont tantôt vraies, tantôt fausses. En effet, le devin, voulant suppléer à l'imperfection de son naturel, se sert de moyens tout à fait étrangers à sa faculté perceptive et qui ne s'accordent en aucune façon avec elle. Donc la vérité et l'erreur se présentent à lui en même temps, aussi ne doit on mettre aucune confiance en ses paroles. Quelquefois même il a recours à des suppositions et à des conjectures dans l'espoir de rencontrer la vérité et de tromper ceux qui l'interrogent.']
[Footnote a: Compare Tennyson's way of attaining a state of trance by repeating to himself his own name.]
CHIEFS IN AUSTRALIA
In the remarks on Australian religion, it is argued that chiefs in Australia are, at most, very inconspicuous, and that a dead chief cannot have thriven into a Supreme Being. Attention should be called, however, to Mr. Howitt's remarks on Australian 'Head-men,' in his tract on 'The Organisation of Australian Tribes' (pp. 103-113).
He attaches more of the idea of power to 'Head-men' than does Mr. Curr in his work, 'The Australian Race.' The Head-men, as a rule, arrive at such influence as they possess by seniority, if accompanied by courage, wisdom, and, in some cases, by magical acquirements. There are traces of a tendency to keep the office (if it may be called one) in the same kinship. 'But Vich Ian Vohr or Chingahgook are not to be found in Australian tribes' (p. 113). I do not observe that the manes or ghost of a dead Head-man receives any worship or service calculated to fix him in the tribal memory, and so lead to the evolution of a deity, though one Head-man was potent through the whole Dieyri tribe over three hundred miles of country. Such a person, if propitiated after death, might conceivably develop into a hero, if not into a creative being. But we must await evidence to the effect that any posthumous reverence was paid to this man, Ialina Piramurane (New Moon). Mr. Howitt's essay is in the 'Transactions of the Royal Society of Victoria for 1889.'
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