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Modern Magic

Human nature enjoys nothing better than to wonder--to be mystified; and it
thanks and remembers those who have the skill to gratify this craving. The
magicians of old knew that truth and conducted themselves accordingly. But
our modern wonder-workers fail of their due influence, because, not
content to perform their marvels, they go on to explain them. Merlin and
Roger Bacon were greater public benefactors than Morse and Edison. Man is
--and he always has been and will be--something else besides a pure
intelligence: and science, in order to become really popular, must
contrive to touch man somewhere else besides on the purely intellectual
side: it must remember that man is all heart, all hope, all fear, and all
foolishness, quite as much as he is all brains. Otherwise, science can
never expect to take the place of superstition, much less of religion, in
mankind's affection. In order to be a really successful man of science, it
is first of all indispensable to make one's self master of everything in
nature and in human nature that science is not.

What must one do, in short, in order to become a magician? I use the term,
here, in its weightiest sense. How to make myself visible and invisible at
will? How to present myself in two or more places at once? How answer your
question before you ask it, and describe to you your most secret thoughts
and actions? How shall I call spirits from the vasty deep, and make you
see and hear and feel them? How paralyze your strength with a look, heal
your wound with a touch, or cause your bullet to rebound harmless from my
unprotected flesh? How shall I walk on the air, sink through the earth,
pass through stone walls, or walk, dry-shod, on the floor of the ocean?
How shall I visit the other side of the moon, jump through the ring of
Saturn, and gather sunflowers in Sirius? There are persons now living who
profess to do no less remarkable feats, and to regard them as incidental
merely to achievements far more important. A school of hierophants or
adepts is said to exist in Tibet, who, as a matter of daily routine, quite
transcend everything that we have been accustomed to consider natural
possibility. What is the course of study, what are the ways and means
whereby such persons accomplish such results?

The conventional attitude towards such matters is, of course, that of
unconditional scepticism. But it is pleasant, occasionally, to take an
airing beyond the bounds of incredulity. For my own part, it is true, I
must confess my inability to believe in anything positively supernatural.
The supernatural and the illusory are to my mind convertible terms: they
cannot really exist or take place. Let us be sure, however, that we are
agreed as to what supernatural means. If a magician, before my eyes,
transformed an old man into a little girl, I should call that
supernatural; and nothing should convince me that my senses had not been
grossly deceived. But were the magician to leave the room by passing
through the solid wall, or "go out" like an exploding soap-bubble,--I
might think what I please, but I should not venture to dogmatically
pronounce the thing supernatural; because the phenomenon known as "matter"
is scientifically unknown, and therefore no one can tell what
modifications it may not be susceptible of:--no one, that is to say,
except the person who, like the magician of our illustration, professes to
possess, and (for aught I can affirm to the contrary) may actually possess
a knowledge unshared by the bulk of mankind. The transformation of an old
man into a little girl, on the other hand, would be a transaction
involving the immaterial soul as well as the material body; and if I do
not know that that cannot take place, I am forever incapable of knowing
anything. These are extreme examples, but they serve to emphasize an
important distinction.

The whole domain of magic, in short, occupies that anomalous neutral
ground that intervenes between the facts of our senses and the truths of
our intuitions. Fact and truth are not convertible terms; they abide in
two distinct planes, like thought and speech, or soul and body; one may
imply or involve the other, but can never demonstrate it. Experience and
intuition together comprehend the entire realm of actual and conceivable
knowledge. Whatever contradicts both experience and intuition may,
therefore, be pronounced illusion. But this neutral ground is the home of
phenomena which intuition does not deny, and which experience has not
confirmed. It is still a wide zone, though not so wide as it was a hundred
years ago, or fifty, or even ten. It narrows every day, as science, or the
classification of experience, expands. Are we, then, to look for a time
when the zone shall have dwindled to a mathematical line, and magic
confess itself to have been nothing but the science of an advanced school
of investigators? Will the human intellect acquire a power before which
all mysteries shall become transparent? Let us dwell upon this question a
little longer.

A mystery that is a mystery can never, humanly speaking, become anything
else. Instances of such mysteries can readily be adduced. The universe
itself is built upon them and is the greatest of them. They lie before the
threshold and at the basis of all existence. For example:--here is a lump
of compact, whitish, cheese-like substance, about as much as would go into
a thimble. From this I profess to be able to produce a gigantic, intricate
structure, sixty feet in height and diameter, hard, solid, and enduring,
which shall furthermore possess the power of extending and multiplying
itself until it covers the whole earth, and even all the earths in the
universe, if it could reach them. Is such a profession as this credible?
It is entirely credible, as soon as I paraphrase it by saying that I
propose to plant an acorn. And yet all magic has no mystery which is so
wonderful as this universal mystery of growth: and the only reason we are
not lost in amazement at it is that it goes quietly on all the time, and
perfects itself under uniform conditions. But let me eliminate from the
phenomenon the one element of time--which is logically the least essential
factor in the product, unreal and arbitrary, based on the revolution of
the earth, and conceivably variable to any extent--grant me this, and the
world would come to see me do the miracle. But, with time or without it,
the mystery is just as mysterious.

Natural mysteries, then,--the mysteries of life, death, creation, growth,
--do not fall under our present consideration: they are beyond the
legitimate domain of magic: and no intellectual development to which we
may hereafter attain will bring us a step nearer their solution. But with
the problems proper to magic, the case is different. Magic is
distinctively not Divine, but human: a finite conundrum, not an Infinite
enigma. If there has ever been a magician since the world began, then all
mankind may become magicians, if they will give the necessary time and
trouble. And yet, magic is not simply an advanced region of the path which
science is pursuing. Science is concerned with results,--with material
phenomena; whereas magic is, primarily, the study of causes, or of
spiritual phenomena; or, to use another definition,--of phenomena which
the senses perceive, not in themselves, but only in their results. So long
as we restrict ourselves to results, our activity is confined to analysis;
but when we begin to investigate causes, we are on the road not only to
comprehend results, but (within limits) to modify or produce them.

Science, however, blocks our advance in this direction by denying, or at
least refusing to admit, the existence of the spiritual world, or world of
causes: because, being spiritual, it is not sensible, or cognizable in
sense. Science admits only material causes, or the changes wrought in
matter by itself. If we ask what is the cause of a material cause, we are
answered that it is a supposed entity called Force, concerning which there
is nothing further to be known.

At this point, then, argument (on the material plane) comes to an end, and
speculation or assumption begins. Science answers its own questions, but
neither can nor will answer any others. And upon what pretence do we ask
any others? We ask them upon two grounds. The first is that some people,--
we might even say, most people,--would be glad to believe in supersensuous
existence, and are always on the alert to examine any plausible hypothesis
pointing in that direction: and secondly, there exists a vast amount of
testimony (we need not call it evidence) tending to show that the
supersensuous world has been discovered, and that it endows its
discoverers with sundry notable advantages. Of course, we are not obliged
to credit this testimony, unless we want to: and--for some reason, never
fully explained--a great many people who accept natural mysteries quite
amiably become indignant when requested to examine mysteries of a much
milder order. But it is not my intention to discuss the limits of the
probable; but to swallow as much as possible first, and endeavor to
account for it afterwards.

There is, as every reader knows, a class of phenomena--such as hypnotism,
trance, animal magnetism, and so forth--the occurrence of which science
has conceded, though failing as yet to offer any intelligent explanation
of them. It is suggested that they are peculiar states of the brain and
nerve-centres, physical in their nature and origin, though evading our
present physical tests. Be that as it may, they afford a capital
introduction to the study of magic; if, indeed, they, and a few allied
phenomena, do not comprise the germs of the whole matter. Apropos of this
subject, a society has lately been organized in London, with branches on
the Continent and in this country, composed of scientific men, Fellows of
the Royal Society, members of Parliament, professors, and literary men,
calling themselves the "Psychical Research Society," and making it their
business to test and investigate these very marvels, under the most
stringent scientific conditions. But the capacity to be deceived of the
bodily senses is almost unlimited; in fact, we know that they are
incapable of telling us the ultimate truth on any subject; and we are able
to get along with them only because we have found their misinformation to
be sufficiently uniform for most practical purposes. But once admit that
the origin of these phenomena is not on the physical plane, and then, if
we are to give any weight at all to them, it can be only from a spiritual
standpoint. In other words, unless we can approach such questions by an _a
priori_ route, we might as well let them alone. We can reason from spirit
to body--from mind to matter--but we can never reverse that process, and
from matter evolve mind. The reason is that matter is not found to contain
mind, but is only acted upon by it, as inferior by superior; and we cannot
get out of the bag more than has been put into it. The acorn (to use our
former figure) can never explain the oak; but the oak readily accounts for
the acorn. It may be doubted, therefore, whether the Psychical Research
Society can succeed in doing more than to give a respectable endorsement
to a perplexing possibility,--so long as they adhere to the inductive
method. Should they, however, abandon the inductive method for the
deductive, they will forfeit the allegiance of all consistently scientific
minds; and they may, perhaps, make some curious contributions to
philosophy. At present, they appear to be astride the fence between
philosophy and science, as if they hoped in some way to make the former
satisfy the latter's demands. But the difference between the evidence that
demonstrates a fact and the evidence that confirms a truth is, once more,
a difference less of degree than of kind. We can never obtain sensible
verification of a proposition that transcends sense. We must accept it
without material proof, or not at all. We may believe, for instance, that
Creation is the work of an intelligent Divine Being; or we may disbelieve
it; but we can never prove it. If we do believe it, innumerable
confirmations of it meet us at every turn: but no such confirmations, and
no multiplication of them, can persuade a disbeliever. For belief is ever
incommunicable from without; it can be generated only from within. The
term "belief" cannot be applied to our recognition of a physical fact: we
do not believe in that--we are only sensible of it.

In this connection, a few words will be in order concerning what is called
Spiritism,--a subject which has of late years been exciting a good deal of
remark. Its disciples claim for it the dignity of a new and positive
revelation,--a revelation to sense of spiritual being. Now, the entire
universe may be described as a revelation to sense of spiritual being--for
those who happen to believe _a priori_, or from spontaneous inward
conviction, in spiritual being. We may believe a man's body, for example,
to be the effect of which his soul is the cause; but no one can reach that
conviction by the most refined dissection of the bodily tissues. How,
then, does the spiritists' Positive Revelation help the matter? Their
answer is that the physical universe is a permanent and orderly phenomenon
which (setting aside the problem of its First Cause) fully accounts for
itself; whereas the phenomena of Spiritism, such as rapping, table-
tipping, materializing, and so forth, are, if not supernatural, at any
rate extra-natural. They occur in consequence of a conscious effort to
bring them about; they cease when that effort is discontinued; they abound
in indications of being produced by independent intelligencies; they are
inexplicable upon any recognized theory of physics; and, therefore, there
is nothing for it but to regard them as spiritual. And what then? Then, of
course, there must be spirits, and a life after the death of the body; and
the great question of Immortality is answered in the affirmative!

Let us, for the sake of argument, concede that the manifestations upon
which the Spiritists found their claims are genuine: that they are or can
be produced without fraud; and let us then enquire in what respect our
means for the conversion of the sceptic are improved. In the first place
we find that all the manifestations--be their cause what it may--can occur
only on the physical plane. However much the origin of the phenomena may
perplex us, the phenomena themselves must be purely material, in so far as
they are perceptible at all. "Raps" are audible according to the same laws
of vibration as other sounds: the tilting table is simply a material body
displaced by an adequate agency; the materialized hand or face is nothing
but physical substance assuming form. Plainly, therefore, we have as much
right to ascribe a spiritual source to such phenomena as we have to
ascribe a spiritual source to the ordinary phenomena of nature, such as a
tree or a man's body,--just as much right--and no more! Consequently, we
are no nearer converting our sceptic than we were at the outset. He admits
the physical manifestation: there is no intrinsic novelty about that: but
when we proceed to argue that the manifestations are wrought by spirits,
he points out to us that this is sheer assumption on our part. "I have not
seen a spirit," he says: "I have not heard one; I have not felt one; nor
is it possible that my bodily senses should perceive anything that is not
at least as physical as they are. I have witnessed certain transactions
effected by means unknown to me--possibly by the action of a natural law
not yet fully expounded by science. If there was anything spiritual in the
affair, it has not been manifest to my apprehension: and I must decline to
lend my countenance to any such pretensions."

That would be the reply of the sceptic who was equal to the emergency. But
let us suppose that he is not equal to it: that he is a weak-kneed,
impressionable person, with a tendency to jump at conclusions; and that he
is scared or mystified into believing that "spirits" may be at the bottom
of it. What, then, will be the character of the faith which the Positive
Revelation has furnished him? He has discovered that existence continues,
in some fashion, after the death of the body. He has learned that there
may be such a thing as--not immortality exactly, but--postmortem
consciousness. He has been saddled with the conviction that the other
world is full of restless ghosts, who come shuddering back from their cold
emptiness, and try to warm themselves in the borrowed flesh and blood, and
with the purblind selfishness and curiosity of us who still remain here.
"Have faith: be not impatient: the conditions are unfavorable: but we are
working for you!"--such is the constant burden of the communications. But,
if there be a God, why must our relations with him be complicated by the
interference of such forlorn prevaricators and amateur Paracletes as
these? we do not wish to be "worked for,"--to be carried heavenward on
some one else's shoulders: but to climb thither by God's help and our own
will, or to stay where we are. Moreover, by what touchstone shall we test
the veracity of the self-appointed purveyors of this Positive Revelation?
Are we to believe what they say, because they have lost their bodies? If
life teaches us anything, it is that God does above all things respect the
spiritual freedom of his creatures. He does not terrify and bully us into
acknowledging Him by ghostly juggleries in darkened rooms, and by vapid
exhibitions addressed to our outward senses. He approaches each man in the
innermost sacred audience-chamber of his heart, and there shows him good
and evil, truth and falsehood, and bids him choose. And that choice, if
made aright, becomes a genuine and undying belief, because it was made in
freedom, unbiassed by external threats and cajoleries.

Such belief is, itself, immortality,--something as distinct from post-
mortem consciousness as wisdom is distinct from mere animal intelligence.
On the whole, therefore, there seems to be little real worth in Spiritism,
even accepting it at its own valuation. The nourishment it yields the soul
is too meagre; and--save on that one bare point of life beyond the grave,
which might just as easily prove an infinite curse as an infinite
blessing--it affords no trustworthy news whatever.

But these objections do not apply to magic proper. Magic seems to consist
mainly in the control which mind may exceptionally exercise over matter.
In hypnotism, the subject abjectly believes and obeys the operator. If he
be told that he cannot step across a chalk mark on the floor, he cannot
step across it. He dissolves in tears or explodes with laughter, according
as the operator tells him he has cause for merriment or tears: and if he
be assured that the water he drinks is Madeira wine or Java coffee, he has
no misgiving that such is not the case.

To say that this state of things is brought about by the exercise of the
operator's will, is not to explain the phenomenon, but to put it in
different terms. What is the will, and how does it produce such a result?
Here is a man who believes, at the word of command, that the thing which
all the rest of the world calls a chair is a horse. How is such
misapprehension on his part possible? our senses are our sole means of
knowing external objects: and this man's senses seem to confirm--at least
they by no means correct--his persuasion that a given object is something
very different. Could we solve this puzzle, we should have done something
towards gaining an insight into the philosophy of magic.

We observe, in the first place, that the _rationale_ of hypnotism, and of
trance in general, is distinct from that of memory and of imagination, and
even from that of dreams. It resembles these only in so far as it involves
a quasi-perception of something not actually present or existent. But
memory and imagination never mislead us into mistaking their suggestions
for realities: while in dreams, the dreamer's fancy alone is active; the
bodily faculties are not in action. In trance, however, the subject may
appear to be, to all intents and purposes, awake. Yet this state, unlike
the others, is abnormal. The brain seems to be in a passive, or, at any
rate, in a detached condition; it cannot carry out or originate ideas, nor
can it examine an idea as to its truth or falsehood. Furthermore, it
cannot receive or interpret the reports of its own bodily senses. In
short, its relations with the external world are suspended: and since the
body is a part of the external world, the brain can no longer control the
body's movements.

Bodily movements are, however, to some extent, automatic. Given a certain
stimulus in the brain or nerve-centres, and certain corresponding muscular
contractions follow: and this whether or not the stimulus be applied in a
normal manner. Although, therefore, the entranced brain cannot
spontaneously control the body, yet if we can apply an independent
stimulus to it, the body will make a fitting and apparently intelligent
response. The reader has doubtless seen those ingenious pieces of
mechanism which are set in motion by dropping into an orifice a coin or
pellet. Now, could we drop into the passive brain of an entranced person
the idea that a chair is a horse, for instance,--the person would give
every sensible indication of having adopted that figment as a fact.

But how (since he can no longer communicate with the world by means of his
senses) is this idea to be insinuated? The man is magnetized--that is to
say, insulated; how can we have intercourse with him?

Experiments show that this can be effected only through the magnetizer.
Asleep towards the rest of the world, towards him the entranced person is
awake. Not awake, however, as to the bodily senses; neither the magnetizer
nor any one else can approach by that route. It is true that, if the
magnetizer speaks to him, he knows what is said: but he does not hear
physically; because he perceives the unspoken thought just as readily. But
since whatever does not belong to his body must belong to his soul (or
mind, if that term be preferable), it follows that the magnetizer must
communicate with the magnetized on the mental or spiritual plane; that is,
immediately, or without the intervention of the body.

Let us review the position we have reached:--We have an entranced or
magnetized person,--a person whose mind, or spirit, has, by a certain
process, been so far withdrawn from conscious communion with his own
bodily senses as to disable him from receiving through them any tidings
from the external world. He is not, however, wholly withdrawn from his
body, for, in that case, the body would be dead; whereas, in fact, its
organic or animal life continues almost unimpaired. He is therefore
neither out of the body nor in it, but in an anomalous region midway
between the two,--a state in which he can receive no sensuous impressions
from the physical world, nor be put in conscious communication with the
spiritual world through any channel--save one.

This one exception is, as we have seen, the person who magnetized him. The
magnetizer is, then, the one and only medium through which the person
magnetized can obtain impressions: and these impressions are conveyed
directly from the mind, or spirit, of the magnetizer to that of the
magnetized. Let us note, further, that the former is not, like the latter,
in a semi-disembodied state, but is in the normal exercise of his bodily
functions and faculties. He possesses, consequently, his normal ability to
originate ideas and to impart them: and whatever ideas he chooses to
impart to the magnetized person, the latter is fain passively and
implicitly to accept. And having so received them, they descend naturally
into the automatic mechanism of the body, and are by it mechanically
interpreted or enacted.

So far, the theory is good: but something seems amiss in the working. We
find that a certain process frequently issues in a certain effect: but we
do not yet know why this should be the case. Some fundamental link is
wanting; and this link is manifestly a knowledge of the true relations
between mind and matter: of the laws to which the mental or spiritual
world is subject: of what nature itself is: and of what Creation means.
Let us cast a glance at these fundamental subjects; for they are the key
without which the secrets of magic must remain locked and hidden.

In common speech we call the realm of the material universe, Creation; but
philosophy denies its claim to that title. Man alone is Creation:
everything else is appearance. The universe appears, because man exists:
he implies the universe, but is not implied by it. We may assist our
metaphysics, here, by a physical illustration. Take a glass prism and hold
in the sunlight before a white surface. Let the prism represent man: the
sun, man's Creator: and the seven-hued ray cast by the prism, nature, or
the material universe. Now, if we remove the light, the ray vanishes: it
vanishes, also, if we take away the prism: but so long as the sun and the
prism--God and man--remain in their mutual relation, so long must the
rainbow nature appear. Nature, in short, is not God; neither is it man;
but it is the inevitable concomitant or expression of the creative
attitude of God towards man. It is the shadow of the elements of which
humanity or human nature is composed: or, shall we say, it is the
apparition in sense of the spiritual being of mankind,--not, be it
observed, of the being of any individual or of any aggregation of
individuals; but of humanity as a whole. For this reason, also, is nature
orderly, complete, and permanent,--that it is conditioned not upon our
frail and faulty personalities, but upon our impersonal, universal human
nature, in which is transacted the miracle of God's incarnation, and
through which He forever shines.

Besides Creator and creature, nothing else can be; and whatever else seems
to be, must be only a seeming. Nature, therefore, is the shadow of a
shade, but it serves an indispensable use. For since there can be no
direct communication between finite and Infinite--God and man--a medium or
common ground is needed, where they may meet; and nature, the shadow which
the Infinite causes the finite to project, is just that medium. Man,
looking upon this shadow, mistakes it for real substance, serving him for
foothold and background, and assisting him to attain self-consciousness.
God, on the other hand, finds in nature the means of revealing Himself to
His creature without compromising the creature's freedom. Man supposes the
universe to be a physical structure made by God in space and time, and in
some region of which He resides, at a safe distance from us His creatures:
whereas, in truth, God is distant from us only so far as we remove
ourselves from our own inmost intuitions of truth and good.

But what is that substance or quality which underlies and gives
homogeneity to the varying forms of nature, so that they seem to us to own
a common origin?--what is that logical abstraction upon which we have
bestowed the name of matter? scientific analysis finds matter only as
forms, never as itself: until, in despair, it invents an atomic theory,
and lets it go at that. But if, discarding the scientific method, we
question matter from the philosophical standpoint, we shall find it less

Man, considered as a mind or spirit, consists of volition and
intelligence; or, what is the same, of emotion or affection, and of the
thoughts which are created by this affection. Nothing can be affirmed of
man as a spirit which does not fall under one or other of these two parts.
Now, a creature consisting solely of affections and thoughts must, of
course, have something to love and to think about. Man's final destiny is
no doubt to love and consider his Creator; but that can only be after a
reactionary or regenerative process has begun in him. Meanwhile, he must
love and consider the only other available object--that is, himself.
Manifestly, however, in order to bestow this attention upon himself, he
must first be made aware of his own existence. In order to effect this,
something must be added to man as spirit, enabling him to discriminate
between the subject thinking and loving, and the object loved and thought
of. This additional something, again, in order to fulfill its purpose,
must be so devised as not to appear an addition: it must seem even more
truly the man than the man himself. It must, therefore, perfectly
represent or correspond to the spiritual form and constitution; so that
the thoughts and affections of the spirit may enter into it as into their
natural home and continent.

This continent or vehicle of the mind is the human body. The body has two
aspects,--substance and form, answering to the two aspects of the mind,--
affection and thought: and affection finds its incarnation or
correspondence in substance; and thought, in form. The mind, in short,
realizes itself in terms of its reflection in the body, much as the body
realizes itself in terms of its reflection in the looking-glass: but it
does more than this, for it identifies itself with this its image. And how
is this identification made possible?

It is brought about by the deception of sense, which is the medium of
communication between the spiritual and the material man. Until this
miraculous medium is put in action, there can be no conscious relation
between these two planes, admirably as they are adapted to each other.
Sense is spiritual on one side and material on the other: but it is only
on the material side that it gathers its reports: on the spiritual side it
only delivers them. Every one of the five messengers whereby we are
apprised of external existence brings us an earthly message only. And
since these messengers act spontaneously, and since the mind's only other
source of knowledge is intuition, which cannot be sensuously confirmed,--
it is little wonder if man has inclined to the persuasion that what is
highest in him is but an attribute of what is lowest, and that when the
body dies, the soul must follow it into nothingness.

Creative energy, being infinite, passes through the world of causes to the
world of effects--through the spiritual to the physical plane. Matter is
therefore the symbol of the ultimate of creative activity; it is the
negative of God. As God is infinite, matter is finite; as He is life, it
is death; as He is real, it is unreal; as He reveals, matter veils. And as
the relation of God to man's spirit is constant and eternal, so is the
physical quality of matter fixed and permanent. Now, in order to arrive at
a comprehension of what matter is in itself, let us descend from the
general to the specific, and investigate the philosophical elements of a
pebble, for instance. A pebble is two things: it is a mineral: and it is a
particular concrete example of mineral. In its mineral aspect, it is out
of space and time, and is--not a fact, but--a truth; a perception of the
mind. In so far as it is mineral, therefore, it has no relation to sense,
but only to thought: and on the other hand, in so far as it is a
particular concrete pebble, it is cognizable by sense but not by thought;
for what is in sense is out of thought: the one supersedes the other. But
if sense thus absorbs matter, so as to be philosophically
indistinguishable from it, we are constrained to identify matter with our
sensuous perception of it: and if our exemplary pebble had nothing but its
material quality to depend upon, it would cease to exist not only to
thought, but to sense likewise. Its metaphysical aspect, in short, is the
only reality appertaining to it. Matter, then, may be defined as the
impact upon sense of that prismatic ray which we have called nature.

To apply this discussion to the subject in hand: Magic is a sort of parody
of reality. And when we recognize that Creation proceeds from within
outwards, or endogenously; and that matter is not the objective but the
subjective side of the universe, we are in a position to perceive that in
order magically to control matter, we must apply our efforts not to matter
itself, but to our own minds. The natural world affects us from without
inwards: the magical world affects us from within outwards: instead of
objects suggesting ideas, ideas are made to suggest objects. And as, in
the former case, when the object is removed the idea vanishes; so in the
latter case, when the idea is removed, the object vanishes. Both objects
are illusions; but the illusion in the first instance is the normal
illusion of sense, whereas in the second instance it is the abnormal
illusion of mind.

The above argument can at best serve only as a hint to such as incline
seriously to investigate the subject, and perhaps as a touchstone for
testing the validity of a large and noisy mass of pretensions which engage
the student at the outset of his enquiry. Many of these pretensions are
the result of ignorance; many of deliberate intent to deceive; some,
again, of erroneous philosophical theories. The Tibetan adepts seem to
belong either to the second or to the last of these categories,--or,
perhaps, to an impartial mingling of all three. They import a cumbrous
machinery of auras, astral bodies, and elemental spirits; they divide man
into seven principles, nature into seven kingdoms; they regard spirit as a
refined form of matter, and matter as the one absolute fact of the
universe,--the alpha and omega of all things. They deny a supreme Deity,
but hold out hopes of a practical deityship for the majority of the human
race. In short, their philosophy appeals to the most evil instincts of the
soul, and has the air of being ex-post-facto; whenever they run foul of a
prodigy, they invent arbitrarily a fanciful explanation of it. But it will
be found, I think, that the various phases of hypnotism, and a
systematized use of spiritism, will amply account for every miracle they
actually bring to pass.

Upon the whole, a certain vulgarity is inseparable from even the most
respectable forms of magic,--an atmosphere of tinsel, of ostentation, of
big cry and little wool. A child might have told us that matter is not
almighty, that minds are sometimes transparent to one another, that love
and faith can work wonders. And we also know that, in this mortal life,
our means are exquisitely adapted to our ends; and that we can gain no
solid comfort or advantage by striving to elbow our way a few inches
further into the region of the occult and abnormal. Magic, however
specious its achievements, is only a mockery of the Creative power, and
exposes its unlikeness to it. "It is the attribute of natural existence,"
a profound writer has said, "to be a form of use to something higher than
itself, so that whatever does not, either potentially or actually, possess
within it this soul of use, does not honestly belong to nature, but is a
sensational effect produced upon the individual intelligence." [Footnote:
Henry James, in "Society the Redeemed Form of Man."]

No one can overstep the order and modesty of general existence without
bringing himself into perilous proximity to subjects more profound and
sacred than the occasion warrants. Life need not be barren of mystery and
miracle to any one of us; but they shall be such tender mysteries and
instructive miracles as the devotion of motherhood, and the blooming of
spring. We are too close to Infinite love and wisdom to play pranks before
it, and provoke comparison between our paltry juggleries and its
omnipotence and majesty.

Julian Hawthorne

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