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Cock Lane and Common-Sense by Andrew Lang

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Transcribed by David Price, email ccx074@coventry.ac.uk

COCK LANE AND COMMON-SENSE

TO JAMES PAYN, Esq.

Dear Payn,

Spirits much more rare and valuable than those spoken of in this
book are yours. Whatever 'Mediums' may be able to do, you can
'transfer' High Spirits to your readers; one of whom does not hope
to convert you, and will be fortunate enough if, by this work, he
can occasionally bring a smile to the lips of his favourite
novelist.

With more affection and admiration than can be publicly expressed,

Believe me,

Yours ever,

ANDREW LANG.

PREFACE.

Since the first publication of Cock Lane and Common-Sense in 1894,
nothing has occurred to alter greatly the author's opinions. He has
tried to make the Folklore Society see that such things as modern
reports of wraiths, ghosts, 'fire-walking,' 'corpse-lights,'
'crystal-gazing,' and so on, are within their province, and within
the province of anthropology. In this attempt he has not quite
succeeded. As he understands the situation, folklorists and
anthropologists will hear gladly about wraiths, ghosts, corpse-
candles, hauntings, crystal-gazing, and walking unharmed through
fire, as long as these things are part of vague rural tradition, or
of savage belief. But, as soon as there is first-hand evidence of
honourable men and women for the apparent existence of any of the
phenomena enumerated, then Folklore officially refuses to have
anything to do with the subject. Folklore will register and compare
vague savage or popular beliefs; but when educated living persons
vouch for phenomena which (if truly stated) account in part for the
origin of these popular or savage beliefs, then Folklore turns a
deaf ear. The logic of this attitude does not commend itself to the
author of Cock Lane and Common-Sense.

On the other side, the Society for Psychical Research, while
anxiously examining all the modern instances which Folklore rejects,
has hitherto neglected, on the whole, that evidence from history,
tradition, savage superstition, saintly legend, and so forth, which
Folklore deigns to regard with interest. The neglect is not
universal, and the historical aspect of these beliefs has been dealt
with by Mr. Gurney (on Witchcraft), by Mr. Myers (on the Classical
Oracles), and by Miss X. (on Crystal-Gazing). Still, the savage and
traditional evidence is nearly as much eschewed by psychical
research, as the living and contemporary evidence is by Folklore.
The truth is that anthropology and Folklore have a ready-made theory
as to the savage and illusory origin of all belief in the spiritual,
from ghosts to God. The reported occurrence, therefore, of
phenomena which suggest the possible existence of causes of belief
_not_ accepted by anthropology, is a distasteful thing, and is
avoided. On the other hand, psychical research averts its gaze, as
a rule, from tradition, because the testimony of tradition is not
'evidential,' not at first hand.

In Cock Lane and Common-Sense an attempt is made to reconcile these
rather hostile sisters in science. Anthropology ought to think
humani nihil a se alienum. Now the abnormal and more or less
inexplicable experiences vouched for by countless living persons of
honour and sanity, are, at all events, _human_. As they usually
coincide in character with the testimony of the lower races all over
the world; with historical evidence from the past, and with rural
Folklore now and always, it really seems hard to understand how
anthropology can turn her back on this large human province. For
example, the famous affair of the disturbances at Mr. Samuel
Wesley's parsonage at Epworth, in 1716, is reported on evidence
undeniably honest, and absolutely contemporary. Dr. Salmon, the
learned and acute Provost of Trinity College, Dublin, has twice
tried to explain the phenomena as the results of deliberate
imposture by Hetty Wesley, alone, and unaided. {0a} The present
writer examined Dr. Salmon's arguments (in the Contemporary Review,
August, 1895), and was able, he thinks, to demonstrate that scarcely
one of them was based on an accurate reading of the evidence. The
writer later came across the diary of Mr. Proctor of Wellington,
near Newcastle (about 1840), and found to his surprise that Mr.
Proctor registered on occasion, day by day, for many years,
precisely the same phenomena as those which had vexed the Wesleys.
{0b} Various contradictory and mutually exclusive theories of these
affairs have been advanced. Not one hypothesis satisfies the
friends of the others: not one bears examination. The present
writer has no theory, except the theory that these experiences (or
these modern myths, if any one pleases), are part of the province of
anthropology and Folklore.

He would add one obvious yet neglected truth. If a 'ghost-story' be
found to contain some slight discrepancy between the narratives of
two witnesses, it is at once rejected, both by science and common-
sense, as obviously and necessarily and essentially false. Yet no
story of the most normal incident in daily life, can well be told
without _some_ discrepancies in the relations of witnesses. None
the less such stories are accepted even by juries and judges. We
cannot expect human testimony suddenly to become impeccable and
infallible in all details, just because a 'ghost' is concerned. Nor
is it logical to demand here a degree of congruity in testimony,
which daily experience of human evidence proves to be impossible,
even in ordinary matters.

A collection of recent reports of 'fire-walking' by unscorched
ministrants, in the South Seas, in Sarawak, in Bulgaria, and among
the Klings, appeals to the present writer in a similar way.
Anthropology, he thinks, should compare these reports of living
witnesses, with the older reports of similar phenomena, in Virgil,
in many books of travel, in saintly legends, in trials by ordeal,
and in Iamblichus. {0c} Anthropology has treasured the accounts of
trials by the ordeal of fire, and has not neglected the tales of old
travellers, such as Pallas, and Gmelin. Why she should stand aloof
from analogous descriptions by Mr. Basil Thomson, and other living
witnesses, the present writer is unable to imagine. The better, the
more closely contemporary the evidence, the more a witness of the
abnormal is ready to submit to cross-examination, the more his
testimony is apt to be neglected by Folklorists. Of course, the
writer is not maintaining that there is anything 'psychical' in
fire-walking, or in fire-handling. Put it down as a trick. Then as
a trick it is so old, so world-wide, that we should ascertain the
modus of it. Mr. Clodd, following Sir B. W. Richardson, suggests
the use of diluted sulphuric acid, or of alum. But I am not aware
that he has tried the experiment on his own person, nor has he
produced an example in which it was successfully tried. Science
demands actual experiment.

The very same remarks apply to 'Crystal-Gazing'. Folklore welcomes
it in legend or in classical or savage divination. When it is
asserted that a percentage of living and educated and honourable
people are actually hallucinated by gazing into crystals, the
President of the Folklore Society (Mr. Clodd) has attributed the
fact to a deranged liver. {0d} This is a theory like another, and,
like another, can be tested. But, if it holds water, then we have
discovered the origin of the world-wide practice of crystal-gazing.
It arises from an equally world-wide form of hepatic malady.

In answer to all that has been urged here, anthropologists are wont
to ejaculate that blessed word 'Survival'. Our savage, and
mediaeval, and Puritan ancestors were ignorant and superstitious;
and we, or some of us, inherit their beliefs, as we may inherit
their complexions. They have bequeathed to us a tendency to see the
viewless things, and hear the airy tongues which they saw and heard;
and they have left us the legacy of their animistic or
spiritualistic explanation of these subjective experiences.

Well, be it so; what does anthropology study with so much zest as
survivals? When, then, we find plenty of sane and honest people
ready with tales of their own 'abnormal' experiences,
anthropologists ought to feel fortunate. Here, in the persons of
witnesses, say, to 'death-bed wraiths,' are 'survivals' of the
liveliest and most interesting kind. Here are parsons, solicitors,
soldiers, actors, men of letters, peers, honourable women not a few,
all (as far as wraiths go), in exactly the mental condition of a
Maori. Anthropology then will seek out these witnesses, these
contemporary survivals, these examples of the truth of its own
hypothesis, and listen to them as lovingly as it listens to a
garrulous old village wife, or to an untutored Mincopi.

This is what we expect; but anthropology, never glancing at our
'survivals,' never interrogating them, goes to the Aquarium to study
a friendly Zulu. The consistency of this method laisse a desirer!
One says to anthropologists: 'If all educated men who have had, or
believe they have had "psychical experiences" are mere "survivals,"
why don't you friends of "survivals" examine them and cross examine
them? Their psychology ought to be a most interesting proof of the
correctness of your theory. But, far from studying the cases of
these gentlemen, some of you actually denounce, for doing so, the
Society for Psychical Research.'

The real explanation of these singular scientific inconsistencies is
probably this. Many men of science have, consciously or
unconsciously, adopted the belief that the whole subject of the
'abnormal,' or, let us say, the 'psychical,' is closed. Every
phenomenon admits of an already ascertained physical explanation.
Therefore, when a man (however apparently free from superstitious
prejudice) investigates a reported abnormal phenomenon, he is
instantly accused of _wanting to believe_ in a 'supernatural
explanation'. Wanting (ex hypothesi) to believe, he is unfit to
investigate, all his conclusions will be affirmative, and all will
be worthless.

This scientific argument is exactly the old argument of the pulpit
against the atheist who 'does not believe because he does not want
to believe'. The writer is only too well aware that even scientific
minds, when bent on these topics, are apt to lose balance and
sanity. But this tendency, like any other mental bad habit, is to
be overcome, and may be vanquished.

Manifestly it is as fair for a psychical researcher to say to Mr.
Clodd, 'You won't examine my haunted house because you are afraid of
being obliged to believe in spirits,' as it is fair for Mr. Clodd to
say to a psychical researcher, 'You only examine a haunted house
because you want to believe in spirits; and, therefore, if you _do_
see a spook, it does not count'.

We have recently seen an instructive example. Many continental
savants, some of them bred in the straitest sect of materialists,
examined, and were puzzled by an Italian female 'medium'. Effects
apparently abnormal were attested. In the autumn of 1895 this woman
was brought to England by the Society for Psychical Research. They,
of course, as they, ex hypothesi, 'wish to believe,' should, ex
hypothesi, have gone on believing. But, in fact, they detected the
medium in the act of cheating, and publicly denounced her as an
impostor. The argument, therefore, that investigation implies
credulity, and that credulity implies inevitable and final
deception, scarcely holds water.

One or two slight corrections may be offered here. The author
understands that Mr. Howitt does not regard the Australian conjurers
described on p. 41, as being actually _bound_ by the bark cords
'wound about their heads, bodies, and limbs'. Of course, Mr.
Howitt's is the best evidence possible.

To the cases of savage table-turning (p. 49), add Dr. Codrington's
curious examples in The Melanesians, p. 223 (Oxford, Clarendon
Press, 1891).

To stories of fire-handling, or of walking-uninjured through fire
(p. 49), add examples in The Journal of the Polynesian Society, vol.
ii., No. 2, June, 1893, pp. 105-108. See also 'At the Sign of the
Ship,' Longman's Magazine, August, 1894, and The Quarterly Review,
August, 1895, article on 'The Evil Eye'.

Mr. J. W. Maskelyne, the eminent expert in conjuring, has remarked
to the author that the old historical reports of 'physical
phenomena,' such as those which were said to accompany D. D. Home,
do not impress him at all. For, as Mr. Maskelyne justly remarks,
their antiquity and world-wide diffusion (see essays on 'Comparative
Psychical Research,' and on 'Savage and Classical Spiritualism') may
be accounted for with ease. Like other myths, equally uniform and
widely diffused, they represent the natural play of human fancy.
Inanimate objects are stationary, therefore let us say that they
move about. Men do not float in the air. Let us say that they do.
Then we have the 'physical phenomena' of spiritualism. This
objection had already occurred to, and been stated by, the author.
But the difficulty of accounting for the large body of respectable
evidence as to the real occurrence of the alleged phenomena remains.
Consequently the author has little doubt that there is a genuine
substratum of fact, probably fact of conjuring, and of more or less
hallucinatory experience. If so, the great antiquity and uniformity
of the tricks, make them proper subjects of anthropological inquiry,
like other matters of human tradition. Where conditions of darkness
and so on are imposed, he does not think that it is worth while to
waste time in examination.

Finally, the author has often been asked: 'But what do you believe
yourself?'

He believes that all these matters are legitimate subjects of
anthropological inquiry.

London, 27th October, 1895.

INTRODUCTION.

Nature of the subject. Persistent survival of certain Animistic
beliefs. Examples of the Lady Onkhari, Lucian, General Campbell.
The Anthropological aspect of the study. Difference between this
Animistic belief, and other widely diffused ideas and institutions.
Scientific admission of certain phenomena, and rejection of others.
Connection between the rejected and accepted phenomena. The
attitude of Science. Difficulties of investigation illustrated.
Dr. Carpenter's Theory of unconscious Cerebration. Illustration of
this Theory. The Failure of the Inquiry by the Dialectical Society.
Professor Huxley, Mr. G. H. Lewes. Absurdity and charlatanism of
'Spiritualism'. Historical aspect of the subject. Universality of
Animistic Beliefs, in every stage of culture. Not peculiar to
savagery, ignorance, the Dark Ages, or periods of Religious crisis.
Nature of the Evidence.

It is not without hesitation that this book is offered to the
reader. Very many people, for very various reasons, would taboo the
subjects here discoursed of altogether. These subjects are a
certain set of ancient beliefs, for example the belief in
clairvoyance, in 'hauntings,' in events transcending ordinary
natural laws. The peculiarity of these beliefs is, that they have
survived the wreck of faith in such elements of witchcraft as
metamorphosis, and power to cause tempest or drought. To study such
themes is 'impious,' or 'superstitious,' or 'useless'. Yet to a
pathologist, or anthropologist, the survivals of beliefs must always
be curious and attractive illustrations of human nature.

Ages, empires, civilisations pass, and leave some members even of
educated mankind still, in certain points, on the level of the
savage who propitiates with gifts, or addresses with prayers, the
spirits of the dead.

An example of this endurance, this secular survival of belief, may
be more instructive and is certainly more entertaining than a world
of assertions. In his Etudes Egyptiennes (Tome i. fascic. 2) M.
Maspero publishes the text and translation of a papyrus fragment.
This papyrus was discovered still attached to a statuette in wood,
representing 'the singer of Ammen, Kena,' in ceremonial dress. The
document is a letter written by an ancient Egyptian scribe, 'To the
Instructed Khou of the Dame Onkhari,' his own dead wife, the Khou,
or Khu, being the spirit of that lady. The scribe has been
'haunted' since her decease, his home has been disturbed, he asks
Onkhari what he has done to deserve such treatment: 'What wrong
have I been guilty of that I should be in this state of trouble?
what have I done that thou should'st help to assail me? no crime has
been wrought against thee. From the hour of my marriage till this
day, what have I wrought against thee that I need conceal?'

He vows that, when they meet at the tribunal of Osiris, he will have
right on his side.

This letter to the dead is deposited in the tomb of the dead, and we
may trust that the scribe was no longer annoyed by a Khou, which
being instructed, should have known better. To take another ancient
instance, in his Philopseudes Lucian introduces a kind of club of
superstitious men, telling ghost stories. One of them assures his
friend that the spectre of his late wife has visited and vexed him,
because he had accidentally neglected to burn one of a pair of gilt
shoes, to which she was attached. She indicated the place where the
shoe was lying hidden, and she was pacified. Lucian, of course,
treats this narrative in a spirit of unfeeling mirth, but, if such
tales were not current in his time, there would have been no point
in his banter. Thus the belief in the haunting of a husband by the
spirit of his wife, the belief which drives a native Australian
servant from the station where his gin is buried, survived old
Egypt, and descended to Greece. We now take a modern instance,
closely corresponding to that of the Instructed Khou of the Dame
Onkhari.

In the Proceedings of the Psychical Society (part xiv. p. 477) the
late General Campbell sends, from Gwalior House, Southgate, N.,
April 27, 1884, a tale of personal experiences and actions, which
exactly reproduces the story of the Egyptian Scribe. The narrative
is long and not interesting, except as an illustration of survival,--
in all senses of the word.

General Campbell says that his wife died in July, 1882. He
describes himself as of advanced age, and cautious in forming
opinions. In 1882 he had never given any consideration to 'the
subject of ultra-mundane indications'. Yet he recounts examples of
'about thirty inexplicable sounds, as if inviting my attention
specially, and two apparitions or visions, apparently of a carefully
calculated nature, seen by a child visitor, a blood relation of my
late wife, whom this child had never seen, nor yet any likeness of
her'. The general then describes his house, a new one, and his
unsuccessful endeavours to detect the cause of the knocks, raps,
crashes, and other disturbances. Unable to discover any ordinary
cause, he read some books on 'Spiritualism,' and, finally, addressed
a note, as the Egyptian Scribe directed a letter, to the 'agent':
{4} _Give three raps if from my deceased wife_!

He was rewarded by three crashing sounds, and by other peculiar
phenomena. All these, unlike the scribe, he regarded as sent 'for
my particular conviction and comfort'.

These instances prove that, from the Australian blacks in the Bush,
who hear raps when the spirits come, to ancient Egypt, and thence to
Greece, and last, in our own time, and in a London suburb, similar
experiences, real or imaginary, are explained by the same
hypothesis. No 'survival' can be more odd and striking, none more
illustrative of the permanence, in human nature, of certain
elements. To examine these psychological curiosities may, or may
not, be 'useful,' but, at lowest, the study may rank as a branch of
Mythology, or of Folklore.

It is in the spirit of these sciences, themselves parts of a general
historical inquiry into the past and present of our race, that we
would glance at the anecdotes, legends, and superstitions which are
here collected. The writer has been chiefly interested in the
question of the Evidence, its nature and motives, rather than in the
question of Fact. It is desirable to know why independent
witnesses, practically everywhere and always, tell the same tales.
To examine the origin of these tales is not more 'superstitious'
than to examine the origin of the religious and heroic mythologies
of the world. It is, of course, easy to give both mythology, and
'the science of spectres,' the go by. But antiquaries will be
inquiring, and these pursuits are more than mere 'antiquarian old
womanries'. We follow the stream of fable, as we track a burn to
its head, and it leads us into shy, and strange scenes of human
life, haunted by very fearful wild-fowl, and rarely visited save by
the credulous. There may be entertainment here, and, to the student
of his species, there may be instruction.

On every side we find, as we try to show, in all ages, climates,
races, and stages of civilisation, consentient testimony to a set of
extraordinary phenomena. Equally diffused we find fraudulent
imitations of these occurrences, and, on one side, a credulity which
has accepted everything, on the other hand, a scepticism which
denies and laughs at all the reports. But it is a question whether
human folly would, everywhere and always, suffer from the same
delusions, undergo the same hallucinations, and elaborate the same
frauds. The problem is one which, in other matter, always haunts
the student of man's development: he is accustomed to find similar
myths, rites, customs, fairy tales, all over the world; of some he
can trace the origin to early human imagination and reason, working
on limited knowledge; about others, he asks whether they have been
independently evolved in several places, or whether they have been
diffused from a single centre. In the present case, the problem is
more complicated. Taboos, totemism, myths explanatory of natural
phenomena, customs like what, with Dr. Murray's permission, we call
the Couvade, are either peculiar to barbarous races, or, among the
old civilised races, existed as survivals, protected by conservative
Religion. But such things as 'clairvoyance,' 'levitation,'
'veridical apparitions,' 'movements of objects without physical
contact,' 'rappings,' 'hauntings,' persist as matters of belief, in
full modern civilisation, and are attested by many otherwise sane,
credible, and even scientifically trained modern witnesses. In this
persistence, and in these testimonies, the alleged abnormal
phenomena differ from such matters as nature-myths, customs like
Suttee, Taboo, Couvade, and Totemism, the change of men into beasts,
the raising of storms by art-magic. These things our civilisation
has dropped, the belief in other wild phenomena many persons in our
civilisation retain.

The tendency of the anthropologist is to explain this fact by
Survival and Revival. Given the savage beliefs in magic, spirit
rapping, clairvoyance, and so forth, these, like Marchen, or nursery
tales, will survive obscurely among peasants and the illiterate
generally. In an age of fatigued scepticism and rigid physical
science, the imaginative longings of men will fall back on the
savage or peasant necromancy, which will be revived perhaps in some
obscure American village, and be run after by the credulous and
half-witted. Then the wished-for phenomena will be supplied by the
dexterity of charlatans. As it is easy to demonstrate the quackery
of paid 'mediums,' as _that_, at all events, is a vera causa, the
theory of Survival and Revival seems adequate. Yet there are two
circumstances which suggest that all is not such plain sailing. The
first is the constantly alleged occurrence of 'spontaneous' and
sporadic abnormal phenomena, whether clairvoyance in or out of
hypnotic trance, of effects on the mind and the senses apparently
produced by some action of a distant mind, of hallucinations
coincident with remote events, of physical prodigies that contradict
the law of gravitation, or of inexplicable sounds, lights, and other
occurrences in certain localities. These are just the things which
Medicine Men, Mediums and classical Diviners have always pretended
to provoke and produce by certain arts or rites. Secondly, whether
they do or do not occasionally succeed, apart from fraud, in these
performances, the 'spontaneous' phenomena are attested by a mass and
quality of evidence, ancient, mediaeval and modern, which would
compel attention in any other matter. Living, sane, and
scientifically trained men now,--not to speak of ingenious, and
intelligent, if superstitious observers in the past,--and Catholic
gleaners of contemporary evidence for saintly miracle, and
witnesses, judges, and juries in trials for witchcraft, are
undeniably all 'in the same tale'.

Now we can easily devise an explanation of the stories told by
savages, by fanatics, by peasants, by persons under ecclesiastical
influence, by witches, and victims of witches. That is simple, but
why are sane, scientific, modern observers, and even disgusted
modern sceptics, in a tale, and that just the old savage tale? What
makes them repeat the stories they do repeat? We do not so much
ask: 'Are these stories true?' as, '_Why are these stories told_?'
Professor Ray Lankester puts the question thus, and we are still at
a loss for an answer.

Meanwhile modern science has actually accepted as real, some strange
psychological phenomena which both science and common-sense
rejected, between 1720 and 1840, roughly speaking. The accepted
phenomena are always reported, historically, as attendant on the
still more strange, and still rejected occurrences. We are thus
face to face with a curious question of evidence: To what extent
are some educated modern observers under the same illusions as Red
Men, Kaffirs, Eskimo, Samoyeds, Australians, and Maoris? To what
extent does the coincidence of their testimony with that of races so
differently situated and trained, justify curiosity, interest, and
perhaps suspense of judgment?

The question of the value of the facts is one to be determined by
physiologists, physicians, physicists, and psychologists. It is
clear that the alleged phenomena, both those now accepted and those
still rejected, attend, or are said to attend, persons of singular
physical constitution. It is not for nothing that Iamblichus,
describing the constitution of his diviner, or seer, and the
phenomena which he displays, should exactly delineate such a man as
St. Joseph of Cupertino, with his miracles as recounted in the Acta
Sanctorum {9} (1603-1663). Now certain scientific, and (as a layman
might suppose), qualified persons, aver that they have seen and even
tested, in modern instances, the phenomena insisted on by
Iamblichus, by the Bollandists, and by a great company of ordinary
witnesses in all climes, ages, and degrees of culture. But these
few scientific observers are scouted in this matter, by the vast
majority of physicists and psychologists. It is with this majority,
if they choose to find time, and can muster inclination for the task
of prolonged and patient experiment, that the ultimate decision as
to the portee and significance of the facts must rest. The problem
cannot be solved and settled by amateurs, nor by 'common-sense,'
that

Delivers brawling judgments all day long,
On all things, unashamed.

Ignorance, however respectable, and however contemptuous, is
certainly no infallible oracle on any subject. Meanwhile most
representatives of physical science, perhaps all official
representatives, hold aloof,--not merely from such performances or
pretences as can only be criticised by professional conjurers,--but
from the whole mass of reported abnormal events. As the occurrences
are admitted, even by believers, to depend on fluctuating and
unascertained personal conditions, the reluctance of physicists to
examine them is very natural and intelligible.

Whether the determination to taboo research into them, and to
denounce their examination as of perilous moral consequence, is
scientific, or is obscurantist, every one may decide for himself.
The quest for truth is usually supposed to be regardless of
consequences, meanwhile, till science utters an opinion, till Roma
locuta est, and does not, after a scrambling and hasty inquiry, or
no inquiry at all, assert a prejudice; mere literary and historical
students cannot be expected to pronounce a verdict.

Spiritualists, and even less convinced persons, have frequently
denounced official men of science for not making more careful and
prolonged investigations in this dusky region. It is not enough,
they say, to unmask one imposture, or to sit in the dark four or
five times with a 'medium'. This affair demands the close scrutiny
of years, and the most patient and persevering experiment.

This sounds very plausible, but the few official men of science,
whose names the public has heard,--and it is astonishing how famous
among his peers a scientific character may be, while the public has
never heard of him--can very easily answer their accusers: 'What,'
they may cry, 'are we to investigate? It is absurd to ask us to
leave our special studies, and sit for many hours, through many
years, probably in the dark, with an epileptic person, and a few
hysterical believers. We are not conjurers or judges of conjuring.'
Again, is a man like Professor Huxley, or Lord Kelvin, to run about
the country, examining every cottage where there are rumours of
curious noises, and where stones and other missiles are thrown
about, by undetected hands? That is the business of the police, and
if the police are baffled, as in a Cock Lane affair at Port Glasgow,
in 1864, and in Paris, in 1846, we cannot expect men of science to
act as amateur detectives. {11} Again, it is hardly to be expected
that our chosen modern leaders of opinion will give themselves up to
cross-examining ladies and gentlemen who tell ghost stories.
Barristers and solicitors would be more useful for that purpose.
Thus hardly anything is left which physical science can investigate,
except the conduct and utterances of the hysterical, the epileptic,
the hypnotised and other subjects who are occasionally said to
display an abnormal extension of the perceptive faculties, for
example, by way of clairvoyance. To the unscientific intelligence
it seems conceivable that if Home, for example, could have been kept
in some such establishment as the Salpetriere for a year, and could
have been scrutinised and made the subject of experiment, like the
other hysterical patients, his pretensions might have been decided
on once for all. But he merely performed a few speciosa miracula
under tests established by one or two English men of science, and
believers and disbelievers are still left to wrangle over him: they
usually introduce a question of moral character. Now a few men of
science in England like Dr. Gregory about 1851, and like Dr.
Carpenter, and a larger number on the continent, have examined and
are examining these peculiarities. Their reports are often
sufficiently astonishing to the lay mind.

No doubt when, if ever, a very large and imposing body of these
reports is presented by a cloud of scientific witnesses of esteemed
reputation, then official science will give more time and study to
the topic than it is at present inclined to bestow. Mr. Wallace has
asserted that, 'whenever the scientific men of any age have denied,
on a priori grounds, the facts of investigation, they have _always
been wrong_'. {12} He adds that Galileo, Harvey, Jenner, Franklin,
Young, and Arago, when he 'wanted even to discuss the subject of the
electric telegraph,' were 'vehemently opposed by their scientific
contemporaries,' 'laughed at as dreamers,' 'ridiculed,' and so on,
like the early observers of palaeolithic axes, and similar
prehistoric remains. This is true, of course, but, because some
correct ideas were laughed at, it does not follow that whatever is
laughed at is correct. The squarers of the circle, the discoverers
of perpetual motion, the inquirers into the origin of language, have
all been ridiculed, and ruled out of court, the two former classes,
at least, justly enough. Now official science apparently regards
all the long and universally rumoured abnormal occurrences as in the
same category with Keely's Motor, and Perpetual Motion, not as in
the same category with the undulatory theory of light, or the theory
of the circulation of the blood. Clairvoyance, or ghosts, or
suspensions of the law of gravitation, are things so widely
contradictory of general experience and of ascertained laws, that
they are pronounced to be impossible; like perpetual motion they are
not admitted to a hearing.

As for the undeniable phenomenon that, in every land, age, and
condition of culture, and in every stage of belief or disbelief,
some observers have persistently asserted their experience of these
occurrences; as for the phenomenon that the testimonies of
Australian blacks, of Samoyeds, of Hurons, of Greeks, of European
peasants, of the Catholic and the Covenanting clergy, and of some
scientifically trained modern physicians and chemists, are all
coincident, official physical science leaves these things to
anthropology and folklore. Yet the coincidence of such strange
testimony is a singular fact in human nature. Even people of open
mind can, at present, say no more than that there is a great deal of
smoke, a puzzling quantity, if there be no fire, and that either
human nature is very easily deluded by simple conjuring tricks, or
that, in all stages of culture, minds are subject to identical
hallucinations. The whole hocus-pocus of 'spirit-writing' on slates
and in pellets of paper, has been satisfactorily exposed and
explained, as a rather simple kind of leger-de-main. But this was a
purely modern sort of trickery; the old universal class of useless
miracles, said to occur spontaneously, still presents problems of
undeniable psychological interest.

For example, if it be granted, as apparently it was by Dr.
Carpenter, that, in certain circumstances, certain persons, wide
awake, can perform, in various ways, intelligent actions, and
produce intelligent expressions automatically, without being
conscious of what they are doing, then that fact is nearly as
interesting and useful as the fact that we are descended from
protozoa. Thus Dr. Carpenter says that, in 'table-talking,' 'cases
have occasionally occurred in the experience of persons above
suspicion of intentional deception, in which the answers given by
the movements of tables were not only unknown to the questioners,
but were even contrary to their belief at the time, and yet
afterwards proved to be true. Such cases afford typical examples of
the doctrine of unconscious cerebration, for in several of them it
was capable of being distinctly shown that the answers, although
contrary to the belief of the questioners at the time, were true to
facts of which they had been formerly cognisant, but which had
vanished from their recollection; the residua of these forgotten
impressions giving rise to cerebral changes which prompted the
responses without any consciousness on the part of the agents of the
latent springs of their actions.' It is, apparently, to be
understood that, as the existence of latent unconscious knowledge
was traced in 'several' cases, therefore the explanation held good
in all cases, even where it could not be established as a fact.

Let us see how this theory works out in practice. Smith, Jones,
Brown and Robinson are sitting with their hands on a table. All, ex
hypothesi, are honourable men, 'above suspicion of intentional
deception'. They ask the table where Green is. Smith, Jones and
Robinson have no idea, Brown firmly believes that Green is in Rome.
The table begins to move, kicks and answers, by aid of an alphabet
and knocks, that Green is at Machrihanish, where, on investigation,
he is proved to be. Later, Brown is able to show (let us hope by
documentary evidence), that he _had_ heard Green was going to
Machrihanish, instead of to Rome as he had intended, but this
remarkable change of plans on Green's part had entirely faded from
Brown's memory. Now we are to take it, ex hypothesi, that Brown is
the soul of honour, and, like Mr. Facey Rumford, 'wouldn't tell a
lie if it was ever so'. The practical result is that, while Brown's
consciousness informs him, trumpet-tongued, that Green is at Rome,
'the residue of a forgotten impression' makes him (without his
knowing it) wag the table, which he does not intend to do, and
forces him to say through the tilts of the table, that Green is at
Machrihanish, while he believes that Green is at Rome.

The table-turners were laughed at, and many, if not all of them,
deserved ridicule. But see how even this trivial superstition
illuminates our knowledge of the human mind! A mere residuum of a
forgotten impression, a lost memory which Brown would have sworn, in
a court of justice, had never been in his mind at all, can work his
muscles, while he supposes that they are _not_ working, can make a
table move at which three other honourable men are sitting, and can
tell all of them what none of them knows. Clearly the expedient of
table-turning in court might be tried by conscientious witnesses,
who have forgotten the circumstances on which they are asked to give
evidence. As Dr. Carpenter remarks, quoting Mr. Lecky, 'our
doctrine of unconscious cerebration inculcates toleration for
differences not merely of belief, but of the moral standard'. And
why not toleration for 'immoral' actions? If Brown's residuum of an
impression can make Brown's muscles move a table to give responses
of which he is ignorant, why should not the residuum of a forgotten
impression that it would be a pleasant thing to shoot Mr. Gladstone
or Lord Salisbury, make Brown unconsciously commit that solecism?
It is a question of degree. At all events, if the unconscious self
can do as much as Dr. Carpenter believed, we cannot tell how many
other marvels it may perform; we cannot know till we investigate
further. If this be so, it is, perhaps, hardly wise or scientific
to taboo all investigation. If a mere trivial drawing-room
amusement, associated by some with an absurd 'animistic hypothesis,'
can, when explained by Dr. Carpenter, throw such unexpectedly
blinding light on human nature, who knows how much light may be
obtained from a research into more serious and widely diffused
superstitious practices? The research is, undeniably, beset with
the most thorny of difficulties. Yet whosoever agrees with Dr.
Carpenter must admit that, after one discovery so singular as
'unconscious cerebration,' in its effect on tables, some one is
bound to go further in the same field, and try for more. We are
assuming, for the sake of argument, the accuracy of Dr. Carpenter's
facts. {17a}

More than twenty years ago an attempt was made by a body called the
'Dialectical Society,' to investigate the phenomena styled
spiritualistic. This well-meant essay had most unsatisfactory
results. {17b}

First a committee of inquiry was formed, on the motion of Dr.
Edmunds. The committee was heterogeneous. Many of the names now
suggest little to the reader. Mr. Bradlaugh we remember, but he
chiefly attended a committee which sat with D. D. Home, and it is
admitted that nothing of interest there occurred. Then we find the
Rev. Maurice Davies, who was wont to write books of little
distinction on semi-religious topics. Mr. H. G. Atkinson was a
person interested in mesmerism. Kisch, Moss, and Quelch, with Dyte
and Isaac Meyers, Bergheim and Geary, Hannah, Hillier, Reed (their
names go naturally in blank verse), were, doubtless, all most
estimable men, but scarcely boast of scientific fame. Serjeant Cox,
a believer in the phenomena, if not in their spiritual cause, was of
the company, as was Mr. Jencken, who married one of the Miss Foxes,
the first authors of modern thaumaturgy. Professor Huxley and Mr.
G. H. Lewes were asked to join, but declined to march to Sarras, the
spiritual city, with the committee. This was neither surprising nor
reprehensible, but Professor Huxley's letter of refusal appears to
indicate that matters of interest, and, perhaps, logic, are
differently understood by men of science and men of letters. {18}
He gave two reasons for refusing, and others may readily be imagined
by the sympathetic observer. The first was that he had no time for
an inquiry involving much trouble, and (as he justly foresaw) much
annoyance. Next, he had no interest in the subject. He had once
examined a case of 'spiritualism,' and detected an imposture. 'But,
supposing the phenomena to be genuine, they do not interest me. If
anybody would endow me with the faculty of listening to the chatter
of old women and curates in the nearest cathedral town, I should
decline the privilege, having better things to do.' Thus it would
not interest Professor Huxley if some new kind of telephone should
enable him to hear all the conversation of persons in a town (if a
cathedral town) more or less distant. He would not be interested by
the 'genuine' fact of this extension of his faculties, because he
would not expect to be amused or instructed by the contents of what
he heard. Of course he was not invited to listen to a chatter,
which, on one hypothesis, was that of the dead, but to help to
ascertain whether or not there were any genuine facts of an unusual
nature, which some persons explained by the animistic hypothesis.
To mere 'bellettristic triflers' the existence of genuine abnormal
and unexplained facts seems to have been the object of inquiry, and
we must penitently admit that if genuine communications could really
be opened with the dead, we would regard the circumstance with some
degree of curious zest, even if the dead were on the intellectual
level of curates and old women. Besides, all old women are not
imbeciles, history records cases of a different kind, and even some
curates are as intelligent as the apes, whose anatomy and customs,
about that time, much occupied Professor Huxley. In Balaam's
conversation with his ass, it was not so much the fact that mon ane
parle bien which interested the prophet, as the circumstance that
mon ane parle. Science has obviously soared very high, when she
cannot be interested by the fact (if a fact) that the dead are
communicating with us, apart from the value of what they choose to
say.

However, Professor Huxley lost nothing by not joining the committee
of the Dialectical Society. Mr. G. H. Lewes, for his part, hoped
that with Mr. Alfred Russel Wallace to aid (for he joined the
committee) and with Mr. Crookes (who apparently did not) 'we have a
right to expect some definite result'. Any expectation of that kind
was doomed to disappointment. In Mr. Lewes's own experience, which
was large, 'the means have always been proved to be either
deliberate imposture . . . or the well-known effects of expectant
attention'. That is, when Lord Adare, the Master of Lindsay, and a
cloud of other witnesses, thought they saw heavy bodies moving about
of their own free will, either somebody cheated, or the spectators
beheld what they did behold, because they expected to do so, even
when, like M. Alphonse Karr, and Mr. Hamilton Aide, they expected
nothing of the kind. This would be Mr. Lewes's natural explanation
of the circumstances, suggested by his own large experience.

The results of the Dialectical Society's inquiry were somewhat
comic. The committee reported that marvels were alleged, by the
experimental subcommittees, to have occurred. Sub-committee No. 1
averred that 'motion may be produced in solid bodies without
material contact, by some hitherto unrecognised force'. Sub-
committees 2 and 3 had many communications with mysterious
intelligences to vouch for, and much erratic behaviour on the part
of tables to record. No. 4 had nothing to report at all, and No. 5
which sat four times with Home had mere trifles of raps. Home was
ill, and the seances were given up.

So far, many curious phenomena were alleged to have occurred, but
now Dr. Edmunds, who started the whole inquiry, sent in a separate
report. He complained that convinced spiritualists had 'captured'
the editing sub-committee, as people say, and had issued a report
practically spiritualistic. He himself had met nothing more
remarkable than impudent frauds or total failure. 'Raps, noises,
and movements of various kinds,' he had indeed witnessed, and he
heard wondrous tales from truthful people, 'but I have never been
able to see anything worthy of consideration, as not being accounted
for by unconscious action, delusion, or imposture'. Then the
editors of the Report contradicted Dr. Edmunds on points of fact,
and Mr. A. R. Wallace disabled his logic, {21} and Mr. Geary
dissented from the Report, and the editors said that his statements
were incorrect, and that he was a rare attendant at seances, and
Serjeant Cox vouched for more miracles, and a great many statements
of the most astounding description were made by Mr. Varley, an
electrician, by D. D. Home, by the Master of Lindsay (Lord Crawford)
and by other witnesses who had seen Home grow eight inches longer
and also shorter than his average height; fly in the air; handle
burning coals unharmed, cause fragrance of various sweet scents to
fill a room, and, in short, rival St. Joseph of Cupertino in all his
most characteristic performances. Unluckily Mr. Home, not being in
the vein, did not one of these feats in presence of Mr. Bradlaugh
and sub-committee No. 5. These results are clearly not of a
convincing and harmonious description, and thus ended the attempt of
the Dialectical Society. Nobody can do otherwise than congratulate
Professor Huxley and Mr. Lewes, on their discreet reserve. The
inquiry of the Dialectical Society was a failure; the members of the
committees remained at variance; and it is natural to side with the
sceptics rather than with those who believed from the first, or were
converted (as many are said to have been) during the experiments.
Perhaps all such inquiries may end in no more than diversity of
opinion. These practical researches ought not to be attempted by
the majority of people, if by any. On many nervous systems, the
mere sitting idly round a table, and calling the process a seance,
produces evil effects.

As to the idea of purposely evoking the dead, it is at least as
impious, as absurd, as odious to taste and sentiment, as it is
insane in the eyes of reason. This protest the writer feels obliged
to make, for while he regards the traditional, historical and
anthropological curiosities here collected as matters of some
interest, in various aspects, he has nothing but abhorrence and
contempt for modern efforts to converse with the manes, and for all
the profane impostures of 'spiritualism'.

On the question of the real existence of the reported phenomena
hereafter chronicled, and on the question of the portee of the
facts, if genuine, the writer has been unable to reach any
conclusion, negative or affirmative. Even the testimony of his
senses, if they ever bore witness to any of the speciosa miracula,
would fail to convince him on the affirmative side. There seems to
be no good reason why one observer should set so much store by his
own impressions of sense, while he regards those of all other
witnesses as fallible. On the other hand, the writer feels unable
to set wholly aside the concurrent testimony of the most diverse
people, in times, lands and conditions of opinion the most various.
The reported phenomena fall into regular groups, like the symptoms
of a disease. Is it a disease of observation? If so, the topic is
one of undeniable psychological interest. To urge this truth, to
produce such examples as his reading affords, is the purpose of the
author.

The topic has an historical aspect. In what sorts of periods, in
what conditions of general thought and belief, are the alleged
abnormal phenomena most current? Every one will answer: In ages
and lands of ignorance and superstitions; or, again: In periods of
religious, or, so to say, of irreligious crisis. As Mr. Lecky
insists, belief in all such matters, from fairies to the miracles of
the Gospel, declines as rationalism or enlightenment advances. Yet
it is not as Mr. Lecky says, before reason that they vanish, not
before learned argument and examination, but just before a kind of
sentiment, or instinct, or feeling, that events contradictory of
normal experience seem ridiculous, and incredible.

Now, if we set aside, for the present, ecclesiastical miracles, and
judicial witchcraft, and fix our attention on such minor and useless
marvels as clairvoyance, 'ghosts,' unexplained noises, unexplained
movements of objects, one doubts whether the general opinion as to
the ratio of marvels and ignorance is correct. The truth is that we
have often very scanty evidence. If we take Athens in her lustre,
we are, undeniably, in an age of enlightenment, of the Aufklarung.
No rationalistic, philosophical, cool-headed contemporary of
Middleton, of Hume, of Voltaire, could speak more contemptuously
about ghosts, and about the immortality of the soul, than some of
the Athenian gentlemen who converse with Socrates in the Dialogues.
Yet we find that Socrates and Plato, men as well educated, as
familiar with the refined enlightenment of Athens as the others,
take to some extent the side of the old wives with their fables, and
believe in earth-bound spirits of the dead. Again, the clear-headed
Socrates, one of the pioneers of logic, credits himself with
'premonitions,' apparently with clairvoyance, and assuredly with
warnings which, in the then existing state of psychology, he could
only regard as 'spiritual'. Hence we must infer that belief, or
disbelief, does not depend on education, enlightenment, pure reason,
but on personal character and genius. The same proportionate
distribution of these is likely to recur in any age.

Once more, Rome in the late Republic, the Rome of Cicero, was
'enlightened,' as was the Greece of Lucian; that is the educated
classes were enlightened. Yet Lucretius, writing only for the
educated classes, feels obliged to combat the belief in ghosts and
the kind of Calvinism which, but for his poem, we should not know to
have been widely prevalent. Lucian, too, mocks frequently at
educated belief in just such minor and useless miracles as we are
considering, but then Lucian lived in an age of cataclysm in
religion. Looking back on history we find that most of historical
time has either been covered with dark ignorance, among savages,
among the populace, or in all classes; or, on the other hand, has
been marked by enlightenment, which has produced, or accompanied,
religious or irreligious crises. Now religious and irreligious
crises both tend to beget belief in abnormal occurrences. Religion
welcomes them as miracles divine or diabolical. Scepticism produces
a reaction, and 'where no gods are spectres walk'. Thus men cannot,
or, so far, men have not been able to escape from the conditions in
which marvels flourish. If we are savages, then Vuis and Brewin
beset the forest paths and knock in the lacustrine dwelling perched
like a nest on reeds above the water; tornaks rout in the Eskimo
hut, in the open wood, in the gunyeh, in the Medicine Lodge. If we
are European peasants, we hear the Brownie at work, and see the
fairies dance in their grassy ring. If we are devoutly Catholic we
behold saints floating in mid-air, or we lay down our maladies and
leave our crutches at Lourdes. If we are personally religious, and
pass days in prayer, we hear voices like Bunyan; see visions like
the brave Colonel Gardiner or like Pascal; walk environed by an
atmosphere of light, like the seers in Iamblichus, and like a very
savoury Covenanting Christian. We are attended by a virtuous sprite
who raps and moves tables as was a pious man mentioned by Bodin and
a minister cited by Wodrow. We work miracles and prophesy, like Mr.
Blair of St. Andrews (1639-1662); we are clairvoyant, like Mr.
Cameron, minister of Lochend, or Loch-Head, in Kintyre (1679). If
we are dissolute, and irreligious like Lord Lyttelton, or like
Middleton, that enemy of Covenanters, we see ghosts, as they did,
and have premonitions. If we live in a time of witty scepticism, we
take to the magnetism of Mesmer. If we exist in a period of learned
and scientific scepticism, and are ourselves trained observers, we
may still watch the beliefs of Mr. Wallace and the experiments
witnessed by Mr. Crookes and Dr. Huggins.

Say we are Protestants, and sceptical, like Reginald Scot (1584), or
Whigs, like De Foe, we then exclaim with Scot, in his Discovery of
Witchcraft (1584), that minor miracles, moving tables, have gone out
with benighted Popery, as De Foe also boasts in his History of the
Devil. Alas, of the table we must admit eppur si muove; it moves,
or is believed by foreign savants to move, for a peasant medium,
Eusapia Paladino. Mr. Lecky declares (1865) that Church miracles
have followed Hop o' my Thumb; they are lost, with no track of white
pebbles, in the forest of Rationalism. {26a} And then Lourdes comes
to contradict his expectation, and Church miracles are as common as
blackberries. Enfin, mankind, in the whole course of its history,
has never got quit of experiences which, whatever their cause, drive
it back on the belief in the marvellous. {26b}

It is a noteworthy circumstance that (setting apart Church miracles,
and the epidemic of witchcraft which broke out simultaneously with
the new learning of the Renaissance, and was fostered by the
enlightened Protestantism of the Reformers, the Puritans, and the
Covenanters, in England, Scotland and America) the minor miracles,
the hauntings and knockings, are not more common in one age than in
another. Our evidence, it is true, does not quite permit us to
judge of their frequency at certain periods. The reason is obvious.
We have no newspapers, no miscellanies of daily life, from Greece,
Rome, and the Middle Ages. We have from Greece and Rome but few
literary examples of 'Psychical Research,' few collections of books
on 'Bogles' as Scott called them. We possess Palaephatus, the life
of Apollonius of Tyana, jests in Lucian, argument and exposition
from Pliny, Porphyry, Iamblichus, Plutarch, hints from Plato,
Plautus, Lucretius, from St. Augustine and other fathers. Suetonius
chronicles noises and hauntings after the death of Caligula, but,
naturally, the historian does not record similar disturbances in the
pauperum tabernaae.

Classical evidence on these matters, as about Greek and Roman
folklore in general, we have to sift painfully from the works of
literary authors who were concerned with other topics. Still, in
the region of the ghostly, as in folklore at large, we have relics
enough to prove that the ancient practices and beliefs were on the
ordinary level of today and of all days: and to show that the
ordinary numbers of abnormal phenomena were supposed to be present
in the ancient civilisations. In the Middle Ages--the 'dark ages'--
modern opinion would expect to find an inordinate quantity of
ghostly material. But modern opinion would be disappointed.
Setting aside saintly miracles, and accusations of witchcraft, the
minor phenomena are very sparsely recorded. In the darkest of all
'dark ages,' when, on the current hypothesis, such tales as we
examine ought to be most plentiful, even witch-trials are
infrequent. Mr. Lecky attributes to these benighted centuries
'extreme superstition, with little terrorism, and, consequently,
little sorcery'. The world was capable of believing anything, but
it believed in the antidote as well as in the bane, in the efficacy
of holy water as much as in the evil eye. When, with the dawn of
enlightenment in the twelfth century, superstition became cruel, and
burned witch and heretic, the charges against witches do not, as a
rule, include the phenomena which we are studying. Witches are
accused of raising storms, destroying crops, causing deaths and
blighting marriages, by sympathetic magic; of assuming the shapes of
beasts, of having intercourse with Satan, of attending the Sabbat.
All these fables, except the last, are survivals from savage
beliefs, but none of these occurrences are attested by modern
witnesses of all sorts, like the 'knockings,' 'movements,' 'ghosts,'
'wraiths,' 'second sight,' and clairvoyance.

The more part of mediaeval witchcraft, therefore, is not quod
semper, quod ubique, quod ab omnibus. The facts were facts: people
really died or were sterile, flocks suffered, ships were wrecked,
fields were ruined; the mistake lay in attributing these things to
witchcraft. On the other hand, the facts of rappings, ghosts,
clairvoyance, in spite of the universally consentient evidence, are
very doubtful facts after all. Their existence has to be
established before we look about for their cause. Now, of records
about _these_ phenomena the Middle Ages produce but a very scanty
supply. The miracles which were so common were seldom of this kind;
they were imposing visions of devils, or of angels, or of saints;
processions of happy or unhappy souls; views of heaven, hell, or
purgatory. The reason is not far to seek: ecclesiastical
chroniclers, like classical men of letters, recorded events which
interested themselves; a wraith, or common ghost ('matter of daily
experience,' says Lavaterus, and, later, contradicts himself), or
knocking sprite, was beneath their notice. In mediaeval sermons we
meet a few edifying wraiths and ghosts, returning in obedience to a
compact made while in the body. Here and there a chronicle, as of
Rudolf of Fulda (858), vouches for communication with a rapping
bogle. Grimm has collected several cases under the head of 'House-
sprites,' including this ancient one at Capmunti, near Bingen. {30}
Gervase of Tilbury, Marie de France, John Major, Froissart, mention
an occasional follet, brownie, or knocking sprite. The prayers of
the Church contain a petition against the spiritus percutiens, or
spirit who produces 'percussive noises'. The Norsemen of the Viking
age were given to second sight, and Glam 'riding the roofs,' made
disturbances worthy of a spectre peculiarly able-bodied. But, not
counting the evidence of the Icelandic sagas, mediaeval literature,
like classical literature, needs to be carefully sifted before it
yields a few grains of such facts as sane and educated witnesses
even now aver to be matter of their personal experience. No doubt
the beliefs were prevalent, the Latin prayer proves that, but
examples were seldom recorded.

Thus the dark ages do _not_, as might have been expected, provide us
with most of this material. The last forty enlightened years give
us more bogles than all the ages between St. Augustine and the
Restoration. When the dark ages were over, when learning revived,
the learned turned their minds to 'Psychical Research,' and Wier,
Bodin, Le Loyer, Georgius Pictorius, Petrus Thyraeus, James VI.,
collected many instances of the phenomena still said to survive.
Then, for want of better materials, the unhappy, tortured witches
dragged into their confessions all the folklore which they knew.
Second sight, the fairy world, ghosts, 'wraiths,' 'astral bodies' of
witches whose bodies of flesh are elsewhere, volatile chairs and
tables, all were spoken of by witches under torture, and by sworn
witnesses. {31} Resisting the scepticism of the Restoration,
Glanvil, More, Boyle, and the rest, fought the Sadducee with the
usual ghost stories. Wodrow, later (1701-1731), compiled the
marvels of his Analecta. In spite of the cold common-sense of the
eighteenth century, sporadic outbreaks of rappings and feats of
impulsive pots, pans, beds and chairs insisted on making themselves
notorious. The Wesley case would never have been celebrated if the
sons of Samuel Wesley had not become prominent. John Wesley and the
Methodists revelled in such narratives, and so the catena of
testimonies was lengthened till Mesmer came, and, with Mesmer, the
hypothesis of a 'fluidic force' which in various shapes has endured,
and is not, even now, wholly extinct. Finally Modern Spiritualism
arrived, and was, for the most part, an organised and fraudulent
copy of the old popular phenomena, with a few cheap and vulgar
variations on the theme.

In the face of these facts, it does not seem easy to aver that one
kind of age, one sort of 'culture' is more favourable to the
occurrence of, or belief in, these phenomena than another.
Accidental circumstances, an increase, or a decrease of knowledge
and education, an access of religion, or of irreligion, a fashion in
intellectual temperament, may bring these experiences more into
notice at one moment than at another, but they are always said to
recur, at uncertain intervals, and are always essentially the same.

To prove this by examples is our present business. In a thoroughly
scientific treatise, the foundation of the whole would, of course,
be laid in a discussion of psychology, physiology, and the phenomena
of hypnotism. But on these matters an amateur opinion is of less
than no value. The various schools of psychologists, neurologists,
'alienists,' and employers of hypnotism for curative or experimental
purposes, appear to differ very widely among themselves, and the
layman may read but he cannot criticise their works. The essays
which follow are historical, anthropological, antiquarian.

SAVAGE SPIRITUALISM.

'Shadow' or Magic of the Dene Hareskins: its four categories.
These are characteristic of all Savage Spiritualism. The subject
somewhat neglected by Anthropologists. Uniformity of phenomena.
Mr. Tylor's theory of the origin of 'Animism'. Question whether
there are any phenomena not explained by Mr. Tylor's theory.
Examples of uniformity. The savage hypnotic trance. Hareskin
examples. Cases from British Guiana. Australian rapping spirits.
Maori oracles. A Maori 'seance'. The North American Indian Magic
Lodge. Modern and old Jesuit descriptions. Movements of the Lodge.
Insensibility of Red Indian Medium to fire. Similar case of D. D.
Home. Flying table in Thibet. Other instances. Montezuma's
'astral body'. Miracles. Question of Diffusion by borrowing, or of
independent evolution.

Philosophers among the Dene Hareskins in the extreme north of
America recognise four classes of 'Shadow' or magic. Their
categories apply sufficiently closely to all savage sorcery
(excluding sympathetic magic), as far as it has been observed. We
have, among the Hareskins:--

1. Beneficent magic, used for the healing of the sick.

2. Malevolent magic: the black art of witchcraft

3. Conjuring, or the working of merely sportive miracles.

4. Magic for ascertaining the truth about the future or the distant
present--clairvoyance. This is called 'The Young Man Bound and
Bounding,' from the widely-spread habit of tying-up the limbs of the
medium, and from his customary convulsions.

To all of these forms of magic, or spiritualism, the presence and
aid of 'spirits' is believed to be necessary, with, perhaps, the
exception of the sportive or conjuring class. A spirit helps to
cure and helps to kill. The free spirit of the clairvoyant in
bondage meets other spirits in its wanderings. Anthropologists,
taking it for granted that 'spirits' are a mere 'animistic
hypothesis'--their appearances being counterfeited by imposture--
have paid little attention to the practical magic of savages, as far
as it is not merely sympathetic, and based on the doctrine that
'like cures like'.

Thus Mr. Sproat, in his excellent work, Scenes and Studies of Savage
Life, frankly admits that in Vancouver Island the trickery and
hocus-pocus of Aht sorcery were so repugnant to him that he could
not occupy himself with the topic. Some other travellers have been
more inquisitive; unlettered sojourners among the wilder peoples
have shared their superstitions, and consulted their oracles, while
one or two of the old Jesuit missionaries were close and puzzled
observers of their 'mediumship'.

Thus enough is known to show that savage spiritualism wonderfully
resembles, even in minute details, that of modern mediums and
seances, while both have the most striking parallels in the old
classical thaumaturgy.

This uniformity, to a certain extent, is not surprising, for savage,
classical, and modern spiritualism all repose on the primaeval
animistic hypothesis as their metaphysical foundation. The origin
of this hypothesis--namely, that disembodied intelligences exist and
are active--is explained by anthropologists as the result of early
reasonings on life, death, sleep, dreams, trances, shadows, the
phenomena of epilepsy, and the illusions of starvation. This
scientific theory is, in itself, unimpeachable; normal phenomena,
psychological and physical, might suggest most of the animistic
beliefs. {35}

At the same time 'veridical hallucinations,' if there are any, and
clairvoyance, if there is such a thing, would do much to originate
and confirm the animistic opinions. Meanwhile, the extraordinary
similarity of savage and classical spiritualistic rites, with the
corresponding similarity of alleged modern phenomena, raises
problems which it is more easy to state than to solve. For example,
such occurrences as 'rappings,' as the movement of untouched
objects, as the lights of the seance room, are all easily feigned.
But that ignorant modern knaves should feign precisely the same
raps, lights, and movements as the most remote and unsophisticated
barbarians, and as the educated Platonists of the fourth century
after Christ, and that many of the other phenomena should be
identical in each case, is certainly noteworthy. This kind of
folklore is the most persistent, the most apt to revive, and the
most uniform. We have to decide between the theories of independent
invention; of transmission, borrowing, and secular tradition; and of
a substratum of actual fact.

Thus, either the rite of binding the sorcerer was invented, for no
obvious reason, in a given place, and thence reached the Australian
blacks, the Eskimo, the Dene Hareskins, the Davenport Brothers, and
the Neoplatonists; or it was independently evolved in each of
several remote regions; or it was found to have some actual effect--
what we cannot guess--on persons entranced. We are hampered by not
knowing, in our comparatively rational state of development, what
strange things it is natural for a savage to invent. That spirits
should knock and rap seems to us about as improbable an idea as
could well occur to the fancy. Were we inventing a form for a
spirit's manifestations to take, we never should invent _that_. But
what a savage might think an appropriate invention we do not know.
Meanwhile we have the mediaeval and later tales of rapping, some of
which, to be frank, have never been satisfactorily accounted for on
any theory. But, on the other hand, each of us might readily invent
another common 'manifestation'--the _wind_ which is said to
accompany the spirit.

The very word spiritus suggests air in motion, and the very idea of
abnormal power suggests the trembling and shaking of the place
wherein it is present. Yet, on the other side, the 'cold non-
natural wind' of seances, of Swedenborg, and of a hundred stories,
old or new, is undeniably felt by some sceptical observers, even on
occasions where no professional charlatan is engaged. As to the
trembling and shaking of the house or hut, where the spirit is
alleged to be, we shall examine some curious evidence, ancient and
modern, savage and civilised. So of the other phenomena. Some seem
to be of easy natural invention, others not so; and, in the latter
case, independent evolution of an idea not obvious is a difficult
hypothesis, while transmission from the Pole to Australia, though
conceivable, is apt to give rise to doubt.

Meanwhile, one phenomenon, which is usually said to accompany others
much more startling, may now be held to have won acceptance from
science. This is what the Dene Hareskins call the Sleep of the
Shadow, that is, the Magical Sleep, the hypnotic trance. Savages
are well acquainted with this abnormal condition, and with means of
producing it, and it is at the bottom of all their more mysterious
non-sympathetic magic. Before Mesmer, and even till within the last
thirty years, this phenomenon, too, would have been scouted; now it
is a commonplace of physiology. For such physical symptoms as
introverted eyes in seers we need look no further than Martin's
account of the second-sighted men, in his book on the Hebrides. The
phenomenon of anaesthesia, insensibility to pain, in trance, is not
unfamiliar to science, but that red-hot coals should not burn a seer
or medium is, perhaps, less easily accepted; while science,
naturally, does not recognise the clairvoyance, and still less the
'spiritual' attendants of the seer in the Sleep of the Shadow.
Nevertheless, classical, modern, and savage spiritualists are agreed
in reporting these last and most startling phenomena of the magic
slumber in certain cases.

Beginning with what may be admitted as possible, we find that the
Dene Hareskins practise a form of healing under hypnotic or mesmeric
treatment. {38} The physician (who is to be pitied) begins by a
three days' fast. Then a 'magic lodge,' afterwards to be described,
is built for him in the forest. Here he falls into the Sleep of the
Shadow; the patient is then brought before him. In the lodge, the
patient confesses his sins to his doctor, and when that ghostly
friend has heard all, he sings and plays the tambour, invoking the
spirit to descend on the sick man. The singing of barbarous songs
was part of classical spiritualism; the Norse witch, in The Saga of
Eric the Red, insisted on the song of Warlocks being chanted, which
secured the attendance of 'many powerful spirits'; and modern
spiritualists enliven their dark and dismal programme by songs.
Presently the Hareskin physician blows on the patient, and bids the
malady quit him. He also makes 'passes' over the invalid till he
produces trance; the spirit is supposed to assist. Then the spirit
extracts the _sin_ which caused the suffering, and the illness is
cured, after the patient has been awakened by a loud cry. In all
this affair of confession one is inclined to surmise a mixture of
Catholic practice, imitated from the missionaries. It is also not,
perhaps, impossible that hypnotic treatment may occasionally have
been of some real service.

Turning to British Guiana, where, as elsewhere, hysterical and
epileptic people make the best mediums, or 'Peay-men,' we are
fortunate in finding an educated observer who submitted to be
peaied. Mr. Im Thurn, in the interests of science, endured a savage
form of cure for headache. The remedy was much worse than the
disease. In a hammock in the dark, attended by a peay-man armed
with several bunches of green boughs, Mr. Im Thurn lay, under a vow
not to touch whatever might touch him. The peay-men kept howling
questions to the kenaimas, or spirits, who answered. 'It was a
clever piece of ventriloquism and acting.'

'Every now and then, through the mad din, there was a sound, at
first low and indistinct, and then gathering in volume, as if some
big, winged thing came from far towards the house, passed through
the roof, and then settled heavily on the floor; and again, after an
interval, as if the same winged thing rose and passed away as it had
come,' while the air was sensibly stirred. A noise of lapping up
some tobacco-water set out for the kenaimas was also audible. The
rustling of wings, and the thud, 'were imitated, as I afterwards
found, by skilfully shaking the leafy boughs, and then dashing them
suddenly against the ground'. Mr. Im Thurn bit one of the boughs
which came close to his face, and caught leaves in his teeth. As a
rule he lay in a condition scarcely conscious: 'It seems to me that
my spirit was as nearly separated from my body as is possible in any
circumstances short of death. Thus it appears that the efforts of
the peay-man were directed partly to the separation of his own
spirit from his body, and partly to the separation of the spirit
from the body of his patient, and that in this way spirit holds
communion with spirit.' But Mr. Im Thurn's headache was not
alleviated! The whirring noise occurs in the case of the Cock Lane
Ghost (1762), in Iamblichus, in some 'haunted houses,' and is
reported by a modern lady spiritualist in a book which provokes
sceptical comments. Now, had the peay tradition reached Cock Lane,
or was the peay-man counterfeiting, very cleverly, some real
phenomenon? {40}

We may next examine cases in which, the savage medium being
entranced, spirits come to him and answer questions. Australia is
so remote, and it is so unlikely that European or American
spiritualists suggested their ideas to the older blacks (for
mediumship seems to be nearly extinct since the settling of the
country), that any transmission of such notions to the Black Fellows
must be very ancient. Our authorities are Mr. Brough Smyth, in
Aborigines of Victoria (i. 472), and Messrs. Fison and Howitt, in
Kamilaroi and Kurnai, who tell just the same tale. The spirits in
Victoria are called Mrarts, and are understood to be the souls of
Black Fellows dead and gone, not demons unattached. The mediums,
now very scarce, are Birraarks. They were consulted as to things
present and future. The Birraark leaves the camp, the fire is kept
low, and some one 'cooees' at intervals. 'Then a noise is heard.
The narrator here struck a book against the table several times to
describe it.' This, of course, is 'spirit-rapping'. The knocks
have a home among the least cultivated savages, as well as in
mediaeval and modern Europe. Then whistles are heard, a phenomenon
lavishly illustrated in certain seances held at Rio de Janeiro {41a}
where children were mediums. The spiritual whistle is familiar to
Glanvil and to Homer. Mr. Wesley, at Epworth (1716), noted it among
all the other phenomena. The Mrarts are next heard 'jumping down,'
like the kenaimas. Questions are put to them, and they answer.
They decline, very naturally, to approach a bright fire. The medium
(Birraark) is found entranced, either on the ground where the Mrarts
have been talking, or at the top of a tree, very difficult to climb,
'and up which there are no marks of any one having climbed'. The
blacks, of course, are peculiarly skilled in detecting such marks.
In maleficent magic, as among the Dene Hareskins, the Australian
sorcerer has 'his head, body, and limbs wound round with stringy
bark cords'. {41b} The enchantment is believed to drag the victim,
in a trance, towards the sorcerer. This binding is customary among
the Eskimo, and, as Mr. Myers has noted, was used in the rites
described by the Oracles in 'trance utterances,' which Porphyry
collected in the fourth century. Whether the binding was thought to
restrain the convulsions of the mediums, or whether it was,
originally, a 'test condition,' to prevent the medium from cheating
(as in modern experiments), we cannot discover. It does not appear
to be in use among the Maoris, whose speciality is 'trance
utterance'.

A very picturesque description of a Maori seance is given in Old New
Zealand. {42} The story loses greatly by being condensed. A
popular and accomplished young chief had died in battle, and his
friends asked the Tohunga, or medium, to call him back. The chief
was able to read and write; he had kept a journal of remarkable
events, and that journal, though 'unceasingly searched for,' had
disappeared. This was exactly a case for a test, and that which was
given would have been good enough for spiritualists, though not for
more reasonable human beings. In the village hall, in flickering
firelight, the friends, with the English observer, the 'Pakeha
Maori,' were collected. The medium, by way of a 'cabinet,' selected
the darkest corner. The fire burned down to a red glow. Suddenly
the spirit spoke, 'Salutation to my tribe,' and the chief's sister,
a beautiful girl, rushed, with open arms, into the darkness; she was
seized and held by her friends. The gloom, the tears, the sorrow,
nearly overcame the incredulity of the Englishman, as the Voice
came, 'a strange, melancholy sound, like the sound of a wind blowing
into a hollow vessel'. 'It is well with me,' it said; 'my place is
a good place.' They asked of their dead friends; the hollow answers
replied, and the Englishman 'felt a strange swelling of the chest'.
The Voice spoke again: 'Give my large pig to the priest,' and the
sceptic was disenchanted. He now thought of the test. '"We cannot
find your book," I said; "where have you concealed it?" The answer
immediately came: "Between the Tahuhu of my house and the thatch,
straight over you as you go into the door".' Here the brother
rushed out. 'In five minutes he came back, _with the book in his
hand_.' After one or two more remarks the Voice came, '"Farewell!"
_from deep beneath the ground_. "Farewell!" again _from high in
air_. "Farewell!" once more came moaning through the distant
darkness of the night. The deception was perfect. "A
ventriloquist," said I, "or--or, _perhaps_ the devil."' The seance
had an ill end: the chief's sister shot herself.

This was decidedly a well-got-up affair for a colonial place. The
Maori oracles are precisely like those of Delphi. In one case a
chief was absent, was inquired for, and the Voice came, 'He will
return, yet not return'. Six months later the chiefs friends went
to implore him to come home. They brought him back a corpse; they
had found him dying, and carried away the body. In another case,
when the Maori oracle was consulted as to the issue of a proposed
war, it said: 'A desolate country, a desolate country, a desolate
country!' The chiefs, of course, thought the _other_ country was
meant, but they were deceived, as Croesus was by Delphi, when he was
told that he 'would ruin a great empire'. In yet another case, the
Maoris were anxious for the spirits to bring back a European ship,
on which a girl had fled with the captain. The Pakeha Maori was
present at this seance, and heard the 'hollow, mysterious whistling
Voice, "The ship's nose I will batter out on the great sea"'. Even
the priest was puzzled, this, he said, was clearly a deceitful
spirit, or atua, like those of which Porphyry complains, like most
of them in fact. But, ten days later, the ship came back to port;
she had met a gale, and sprung a leak in the bow, called, in Maori,
'the nose' (ihu). It is hardly surprising that some Europeans used
to consult the oracle.

Possibly some spiritualists may take comfort in these anecdotes, and
allege that the Maori mediums were 'very powerful'. This is said to
have been the view taken by some American believers, in a very
curious case, reported by Kohl, but the tale, as he tells it, cannot
possibly be accurate. However, it illustrates and strangely
coincides with some stories related by the Jesuit, Pere Lejeune, in
the Canadian Mission, about 1637. The instances bear both on
clairvoyance and on the force which is said to shake houses as well
as to lift tables, in the legends of the modern thaumaturgists. We
shall take Kohl's tale before those of the old Jesuit. Kohl first
describes the 'Medicine Lodge,' already alluded to in the account of
Dene Hareskin magic.

The 'lodge' answers to what spiritualists call 'the cabinet,'
usually a place curtained off in modern practice. Behind this the
medium now gets up his 'materialisations,' and other cheap
mysteries. The classical performers of the fourth century also knew
the advantage of a close place, {45a} 'where the power would not be
scattered'. This idea is very natural, granting the 'power'. The
modern Ojibway 'close place,' or lodge, like those seen by old
Jesuit fathers, 'is composed of stout posts, connected with basket-
work, and covered with birch bark. It is tall and narrow, and
resembles a chimney. It is very firmly built, and two men, even if
exerting their utmost strength, would be unable to move, shake, or
bend it.' {45b} On this topic Kohl received information from a
gentleman who 'knew the Indians well, and was even related to them
through his wife'. He, and many other white people thirty years
before, saw a Jossakeed, or medium, crawl into such a lodge as Kohl
describes, beating his tambour. 'The entire case began gradually
trembling, shaking, and oscillating slowly amidst great noise. . . .
It bent back and forwards, up and down, like the mast of a vessel in
a storm. I could not understand how those movements could be
produced by a man inside, as we could not have caused them from the
exterior.' Two voices, 'both entirely different,' were then heard
within. 'Some spiritualists' (here is the weakest part of the
story) 'who were present explained it through modern spiritualism.'
Now this was not before 1859, when Kohl's book appeared in English,
and modern spiritualism, as a sect of philosophy, was not born till
1848, so that, thirty years before 1859, in 1829, there were no
modern spiritualists. This, then, is absurd. However, the tale
goes on, and Kohl's informant says that he knew the Jossakeed, or
medium, who had become a Christian. On his deathbed the white man
asked him how it was done: 'now is the time to confess all
truthfully'. The converted one admitted the premisses--he was
dying, a Christian man--but, 'Believe me, I did not deceive you at
that time. I did not move the lodge. It was shaken by the power of
the spirits. I could see a great distance round me, and believed I
could recognise the most distant objects.' This 'with an expression
of simple truth'. It is interesting, but the interval of thirty
years is a naked impossibility. In 1829 there were queer doings in
America. Joe Smith's Mormons 'spoke with tongues,' like Irving's
congregation at the same time, but there were no modern
spiritualists. Kohl's informant should have said 'ten years ago,'
if he wanted his anecdote to be credited, and it is curious that
Kohl did not notice this circumstance.

We now come to the certainly honest evidence of the Pere Lejeune,
the Jesuit missionary. In the Relations de la Nouvelle France
(1634), Lejeune discusses the sorcerers, who, as rival priests, gave
him great trouble. He describes the Medicine Lodge just as Kohl
does. The fire is put out, of course, the sorcerer enters, the
lodge shakes, voices are heard in Montagnais and Algonkin, and the
Father thought it all a clumsy imposture. The sorcerer, in a very
sportsmanlike way, asked him to go in himself and try what he could
make of it. 'You'll find that your body remains below and your soul
mounts aloft.' The cautious Father, reflecting that there were no
white witnesses, declined to make the experiment. This lodge was
larger than those which Kohl saw, and would have held half a dozen
men. This was in 1634; by 1637 Pere Lejeune began to doubt whether
his theory that the lodge was shaken by the juggler would hold
water. Two Indians--one of them a sorcerer, Pigarouich, 'me
descouvrant avec grande sincerite toutes ses malices'--'making a
clean breast of his tricks'--vowed that they did not shake the
lodge--that a great wind entered fort promptement et rudement, and
they added that the 'tabernacle' (as Lejeune very injudiciously
calls the Medicine Lodge), 'is sometimes so strong that a single man
can hardly stir it.' The sorcerer was a small weak man. Lejeune
himself noted the strength of the structure, and saw it move with a
violence which he did not think a man could have communicated to it,
especially not for such a length of time. He was assured by many
(Indian) witnesses that the tabernacle was sometimes laid level with
the ground, and again that the sorcerer's arm and legs might be seen
projecting outside, while the lodge staggered about--nay, more, the
lodge would rock and sway after the juggler had left it. As usual,
there was a savage, Auiskuouaskousit, who had seen a juggler rise in
air out of the structure, while others, looking in, saw that he was
absent. St. Theresa had done equal marvels, but this does not occur
to the good Father.

The savage with the long name was a Christian catechumen, and yet he
stood to it that he had seen a sorcerer disappear before his very
eyes, like the second-sighted Highlander in Kirk's Secret
Commonwealth (1691). 'His neibours often perceaved this man to
disappear at a certane place, and about one hour after to become
visible.' It would be more satisfactory if the Father had seen
these things himself, like Mrs. Newton Crosland, who informs the
world that, when with Robert Chambers and other persons of sanity,
she felt a whole house violently shaken, trembling, and thrilling in
the presence of a medium--not a professional, but a young lady
amateur. Here, of course, we greatly desire the evidence of Robert
Chambers. Spirits came to Swedenborg with a wind, but it was only
strong enough to flutter papers; 'the cause of which,' as he remarks
with naivete, 'I do not yet understand'. If Swedenborg had gone
into a Medicine Lodge, no doubt, in that 'close place,' the
phenomena would have been very much more remarkable. In 1853 Pere
Arnaud visited the Nasquapees, and describes a seance. 'The
conjurers shut themselves up in a little lodge, and remain for a few
minutes in a pensive attitude, cross-legged. Soon the lodge begins
to move like a table turning, and replies by bounds and jumps to the
questions which are put to the conjurer.' {48} The experiment might
be tried with a modern medium.

Father Lejeune, in 1637, gives a case which reminds us of Home.
According to Home, and to Mrs. S. C. Hall, and other witnesses, when
'in power' he could not only handle live coals without being burned,
but he actually placed a large glowing coal, about the size of a
cricket-ball, on the pate of Mr. S. C. Hall, where it shone redly
through Mr. Hall's white locks, but did him no manner of harm. Now
Father Pijart was present, tesmoin oculaire, when a Huron medicine-
man heated a stone red hot, put it in his mouth, and ran round the
cabin with it, without receiving any harm. Father Brebeuf,
afterwards a most heroic martyr, sent the stone to Father Lejeune;
it bore the marks of the medicine-man's teeth, though Father Pijart,
examining the man, found that lips and tongue had no trace of burn
or blister. He reasonably concluded that these things could not be
done 'sans l'operation de quelque Demon'. That an excited patient
should not feel fire is, perhaps, admissible, but that it should not
scorch either Mr. Hall, or Home, or the Huron, is a large demand on
our credulity. Still, the evidence in this case (that of Mr.
Crookes and Lord Crawford) is much better than usual.

It would be strange if practices analogous to modern 'table-turning'
did not exist among savage and barbaric races. Thus Mr. Tylor, in
Primitive Culture (ii. 156), quotes a Kutuchtu Lama who mounted a
bench, and rode it, as it were, to a tent where the stolen goods
were concealed. The bench was believed, by the credulous Mongols,
to carry the Lama! Among the Manyanja of Africa thefts are detected
by young men holding sticks in their hands. After a sufficient
amount of incantation, dancing, and convulsions, the sticks became
possessed, the men 'can hardly hold them,' and are dragged after
them in the required directions. {50a} These examples are analogous
to the use of the Divining Rod, which is probably moved
unconsciously by honest 'dowsers'; 'sometimes they believe that they
can hardly hold it'. These are cases of movement of objects in
contact with human muscles, and are therefore not at all mysterious
in origin. A regular case of movement _without_ contact was
reported from Thibet, by M. Tscherepanoff, in 1855. The modern
epidemic of table-turning had set in, when M. Tscherepanoff wrote
thus to the Abeille Russe: {50b} 'The Lama can find stolen objects
by following a table which flies before him'. But the Lama, after
being asked to trace an object, requires an interval of some days,
before he sets about finding it. When he is ready he sits on the
ground, reading a Thibetan book, in front of a small square table,
on which he rests his hands. At the end of half an hour he rises
and lifts his hands from the surface of the table: presently the
table also rises from the ground, and follows the direction of his
hand. The Lama elevates his hand above his head, the table reaches
the level of his eyes: the Lama walks, the table rushes before him
in the air, so rapidly that he can scarcely keep up with its flight.
The table then spins round, and falls on the earth, the direction in
which it falls, indicates that in which the stolen object is to be
sought. M. Tscherepanoff says that he saw the table fly about forty
feet, and fall. The stolen object was not immediately discovered,
but a Russian peasant, seeing the line which the table took,
committed suicide, and the object was found in his hut. The date
was 1831. M. Tscherepanoff could not believe his eyes, and searched
in vain for an iron wire, or other mechanism, but could find nothing
of the sort. This anecdote, if it does not prove a miracle,
illustrates a custom. {51}

As to clairvoyance among savages, the subject is comparatively
familiar. Montezuma's priests predicted the arrival of the
Spaniards long before the event. On this point, in itself well
vouched for, Acosta tells a story which illustrates the identity of
the 'astral body,' or double, with the ordinary body. In the witch
stories of Increase Mather and others, where the possessed sees the
phantasm of the witch, and strikes it, the actual witch proves to be
injured. Story leads to story, and Mr. Thomas Hardy somewhere tells
one to this effect. A farmer's wife, a woman of some education,
fell asleep in the afternoon, and dreamed that a neighbour of hers,
a woman, was sitting on her chest. She caught at the figure's arm
in her dream, and woke. Later in the day she met her neighbour, who
complained of a pain in the arm, just where the farmer's wife seized
it in her dream. The place mortified and the poor lady died. To
return to Montezuma. An honest labourer was brought before him, who
made this very tough statement. He had been carried by an eagle
into a cave, where he saw a man in splendid dress sleeping heavily.
Beside him stood a burning stick of incense such as the Aztecs used.
A voice announced that this sleeper was Montezuma, prophesied his
doom, and bade the labourer burn the slumberer's face with the
flaming incense stick. The labourer reluctantly applied the flame
to the royal nose, 'but he moved not, nor showed any feeling'. On
this anecdote being related to Montezuma, he looked on his own face
in a mirror, and 'found that he was burned, the which he had not
felt till then'. {52}

On the Coppermine River the medicine-man, according to Hearne,
prophesies of travellers, like the Highland second-sighted man, ere
they appear. The Finns and Lapps boast of similar powers. Scheffer
is copious on the clairvoyant feats of Lapps in trance. The Eskimo
Angakut, when bound with their heads between their legs, cause
luminous apparitions, just as was done by Mr. Stainton Moses, and by
the mediums known to Porphyry and Iamblichus; the Angakut also send
their souls on voyages, and behold distant lands. One of the oddest
Angekok stories in Rink's Tales and Traditions of the Eskimo (p.
324) tells how some children played at magic, making 'a dark
cabinet,' by hanging jackets over the door, to exclude the light.
'The slabs of the floor were lifted and rushed after them:' a case
of 'movement of objects without physical contact'. This phenomenon
in future attended the young medium's possessions, even when he was
away from home. This particular kind of manifestation, so very
common in trials for witchcraft, and in modern spiritualistic
literature, does not appear to prevail much among savages. Persons
otherwise credible and sane tell the authorities of the Psychical
Society that, with only three amateurs present, things are thrown
about, and objects are brought from places many miles distant, and
tossed on the table. These are technically termed apports. The
writer knows a case in which this was attested by a witness of the
most unimpeachable character. But savages hardly go so far. Bishop
Callaway has an instance in which 'spirits' tossed objects into the
midst of a Zulu circle, but such things are not usual. Savages also
set out food for the dead, but they scarcely attain to the
credulity, or are granted the experience, of a writer in the Medium.
{53} This astonishing person knew a familiar spirit. At dinner,
one day, an empty chair began to move, 'and in answer to the
question whether it would have some dinner, said "Yes"'. It chose
croquets de pomme de terre, which were placed on the chair in a
spoon, lest the spirit, whose manners were rustic, should break a
plate. 'In a few seconds I was told that it was eaten, and looking,
found the half of it gone, with the marks showing the teeth.'
Perhaps few savages would have told such a tale to a journal which
ought to have a large circulation--among believers.

The examples of savage spiritualism which have been adduced might
probably receive many additions; those are but gleanings from a
large field carelessly harvested. The phenomena have been but
casually studied; the civilised mind is apt to see, in savage
seances, nothing but noisy buffoonery. We have shown that there is
a more serious belief involved, and we have adduced cases in which
white men were not unconscious of the barbarian spell. It also
appears that the now recognised phenomena of hypnotism are the basis
of the more serious savage magic. The production of hypnotic
trances, perhaps of hypnotic hallucinations, is a piece of knowledge
which savages possessed (as they were acquainted with quinine),
while European physicians and philosophers ignored or laughed at it.
Tobacco and quinine were more acceptable gifts from the barbarian.
His magic has now and then been examined by a competent
anthropologist, like Mr. Im Thurn, and Castren closely observed the
proceedings of the bound and bounding Shamans among the Samoyeds.
But we need the evidence both of anthropologists and of adepts in
conjuring. They might detect some of the tricks, though Mr. Kellar,
a professional conjurer and exposer of spiritualistic imposture, has
been fairly baffled (he says) by Zulus and Hindus, while educated
Americans are puzzled by the Pawnees. Mr. Kellar's plan of
displaying a few of his own tricks was excellent: the dusky
professionals were stimulated to show theirs, which, as described,
were miracles. The Pakeha Maori, already quoted, saw a Maori
Tohunga perform 'a very good miracle as times go,' but he does not
give any particulars. The late Mr. Davey, who started as a
Spiritualist catechumen, managed, by conjuring, to produce answers
to questions on a locked slate, which is as near a miracle as
anything. But Mr. Davey is dead, though we know his secret, while
it is improbable that Mr. Maskelyne will enrich his repertoire by
travelling among Zulus, Hindus, and Pawnees. As savages cease to be
savages, our opportunities of learning their mystic lore must
decrease.

To one point in this research the notice of students in folklore may
be specially directed. In the attempt to account for the diffusion
of popular tales, such as Cinderella, we are told to observe that
the countries most closely adjacent to each other have the most
closely similar variants of the story. This is true, as a rule, but
it is also true that, while Scandinavian regions have a form of
Cinderella with certain peculiarities not shared by Southern Europe,
those crop up sporadically, far away, among Kaffirs and the Indian
'aboriginal' tribe of Santhals. The same phenomenon of diffusion
occurs when we find savage mediums tied up in their trances, all
over the North, among Canadian Hareskins, among Samoyed and Eskimo,
while the practice ceases at a given point in Labrador, and gives
place to Medicine Lodges. The binding then reappears if not in
Australia, certainly in the ancient Greek ceremonial. The writer is
not acquainted with 'the bound and bounding young man' in the
intervening regions and it would be very interesting to find
connecting cases, stepping-stones, as it were, by which the rite
passed from the Levant to the frozen North.

ANCIENT SPIRITUALISM.

M. Littre on 'demoniac affections,' a subject, in his opinion,
worthy of closer study. Outbreak of Modern Spiritualism. Its
relations to Greek and Egyptian Spiritualism recognised. Popular
and literary sources of Modern Spiritualism. Neoplatonic
thaumaturgy not among these. Porphyry and Iamblichus. The
discerning of Spirits. The ancient attempts to prove 'spirit
identity'. The test of 'spirit lights' in the ancient world.
Perplexities of Porphyry. Dreams. The Assynt Murder. Eusebius on
Ancient Spiritualism. The evidence of Texts from the Papyri.
Evocations. Lights, levitation, airy music, anaesthesia of Mediums,
ancient and modern. Alternative hypotheses: conjuring,
'suggestion' and collective hallucination, actual fact. Strange
case of the Rev. Stainton Moses. Tabular statement showing
historical continuity of alleged phenomena.

In the Revue des Deux Mondes, for 1856, tome i., M. Littre published
an article on table-turning and 'rapping spirits'. M. Littre was a
savant whom nobody accused of superstition, and France possessed no
clearer intellect. Yet his attitude towards the popular marvels of
the day, an attitude at once singular and natural, shows how easily
the greatest minds can pay themselves with words. A curious reader,
in that period of excitement about 'spiritualism,' would turn to the
Revue, attracted by M. Littre's name. He would ask: 'Does M.
Littre accept the alleged facts; if so, how does he explain them?'
And he would find that this guide of human thought did not, at
least, _reject_ the facts; that he did not (as he well might have
done) offer imposture as the general explanation; that he regarded
the topic as very obscure, and eminently worthy of study,--and that
he pooh-poohed the whole affair!

This is not very consistent or helpful counsel. Like the rest of
us, who are so far beneath M. Littre in grasp and in weight of
authority, he was subject to the idola fori, the illusions of the
market-place. It would never do for a great scientific sceptic to
say, 'Here are strange and important facts of human nature, let us
examine them as we do all other natural phenomena,' it would never
do for such a man to say that without qualification. So he
concluded his essay in the pooh-pooh tone of voice. He first gives
a sketch of abnormalities in mortal experience, as in the case of
mental epidemics, of witchcraft, of the so-called prophets in the
Cevennes, of the Jansenist marvels. He mentions a nunnery where,
'in the sixteenth century,' there occurred, among other phenomena,
movements of inanimate objects, pottery specially distinguishing
itself, as in the famous 'Stockwell mystery'. Unluckily he supplies
no references for these adventures.' {57} The Revue, being written
for men and women of the world, may discuss such topics, but need
not offer exact citations. M. Littre, on the strength of his
historical sketch, decides, most correctly, that there is rien de
nouveau, nothing new, in the spirit-rapping epidemic. 'These
maladies never desert our race.' But this fact hardly explains
_why_ 'vessels were dragged from the hands' of his nuns in the
sixteenth century.

In search of a cause, he turns to hallucinations. In certain or
uncertain physical conditions, the mind can project and objectify,
its own creations. Thus Gleditch saw the dead Maupertuis, with
perfect distinctness, in the salle of the Academy at Berlin. Had he
not known that Maupertuis was dead, he could have sworn to his
presence (p. 866). Yes: but how does that explain volatile pots
and pans? Well, there are _collective_ hallucinations, as when the
persecuted in the Cevennes, like the Covenanters, heard non-existent
psalmody. And all witches told much the same tale; apparently
because they were collectively hallucinated. Then were the
spectators of the agile crockery collectively hallucinated? M.
Littre does not say so explicitly, though this is a conceivable
theory. He alleges after all his scientific statements about
sensory troubles, that 'the whole chapter, a chapter most deserving
of study, which contains the series of demoniac affections
(affections demoniaques), has hardly been sketched out'.

Among accounts of 'demoniac affections,' descriptions of objects
moved without contact are of frequent occurrence. As M. Littre
says, it is always the same old story. But why is it always the
same old story? There were two theories before the world in 1856.
First there was the 'animistic-hypothesis,' 'spirits' move the
objects, spirits raise the medium in the air, spirits are the
performers of the airy music. Then there was the hypothesis of a
force or fluid, or faculty, inherent in mankind, and notable in some
rare examples of humanity. This force, fluid, agency, or what you
will, counteracts the laws of gravitation, and compels tables, or
pots, to move untouched.

To the spiritualists M. Littre says, 'Bah!' to the partisans of a
force or fluid, he says, 'Pooh!' 'If your spirits are spirits, why
do they let the world wag on in its old way, why do they confine
themselves to trivial effects?'

The spiritualist would probably answer that he did not understand
the nature and limits of spiritual powers.

To the friends of a force or faculty in our nature, M. Littre
remarks, in effect, 'Why don't you _use_ your force? why don't you
supply a new motor for locomotives? _Pooh_!' The answer would be
that it was not the volume and market value of the force, but the
_existence_ of the force, which interested the inquirer. When
amber, being rubbed, attracted straws, the force was as much a
force, as worthy of scientific study, as when electricity is
employed to bring bad news more rapidly from the ends of the earth.

These answers are obvious: M. Littre's satire was not the weapon of
science, but the familiar test of the bourgeois and the Philistine.
Still, he admitted, nay, asserted strongly, that the whole series of
'demoniac affections' was 'most worthy of investigation,' and was
'hardly sketched out'. In a similar manner, Brierre de Boismont, in
his work on hallucinations, explains a number of 'clairvoyant'
dreams, by ordinary causes. But, coming to a vision which he knew
at first hand, he breaks down: 'We must confess that these
explanations do not satisfy us, and that these events seem rather to
belong to some of the deepest mysteries of our being'. {60} There
is a point at which the explanations of common-sense arouse
scepticism.

Much has been done, since 1856, towards producing a finished
picture, in place of an ebauche. The accepted belief in the
phenomena of hypnotism, and of unconscious mental and bodily
actions--'automatisms'--has expelled the old belief in spirits from
many a dusty nook. But we still ask: '_Do_ objects move untouched?
_why_ do they move, or if they move not at all (as is most probable)
_why_ is it always the same story, from the Arctic circle to the
tales of witches, and of mediums?'

There is little said about this particular phenomena (though
something is said), but there is much about other marvels, equally
widely rumoured of, in the brief and dim Greek records of
thaumaturgy. To examine these historically is to put a touch or two
on the picture of 'demoniac affections,' which M. Littre desired to
see executed. The Greek mystics, at least, believed that the airy
music, the movements of untouched objects, the triumph over
gravitation, and other natural laws, for which they vouch, were
caused by 'demons,' were 'demoniac affections'. To compare the
statements of Eusebius and Iamblichus with those of modern men of
science and other modern witnesses, can, therefore, only be called
superfluous and superstitious by those who think M. Littre
superstitious, and his desired investigation 'superfluous'.

When the epidemic of 'spiritualism' broke out in the United States
(1848-1852) students of classical literature perceived that
spiritualism was no new thing, but a recrudescence of practices
familiar to the ancient world. Even readers who had confined their
attention to the central masterpieces of Greek literature recognised
some of the revived 'phenomena'. The 'Trance Medium,' the
'Inspirational Speaker' was a reproduction of the maiden with a
spirit of divination, of the Delphic Pythia. In the old belief, the
god dominated her, and spoke from her lips, just as the 'control,'
or directing spirit, dominates the medium. But there were still
more striking resemblances between ancient and modern thaumaturgy,
which were only to be recognised by readers of the late
Neoplatonists, such as Porphyry, and of the Christian Fathers, such
as Eusebius, who argued against the apologists of heathenism. The
central classical writers, from Homer to Tacitus, are not
superstitious; they accept the orthodox state magic of omens, of
augurs, of prodigies, of oracles, but anything like private
necromancy is alien and distasteful to them. We need not doubt that
sorcery and the consultation of the dead were being practised all
through the classical period, indeed we know that it was so. Plato
legislates against sorcery in a practical manner; whether it does
harm or not, men are persuaded that it does harm; it is vain to
argue with them, therefore the wizard and witch are to be punished
for their bad intentions. {62}

There were regular, and, so to speak, orthodox oracles of the dead.
They might be consulted by such as chose to sleep on tombs, or to
visit the cavern of Trophonius, or other chasms which were thought
to communicate with the under world. But the idea of bringing a
shade, or a hero, a demon, or a god into a private room, as in
modern spiritualism, meets us late in such works as the Letter of
Porphyry, and the Reply of Iamblichus, written in the fourth century
of our era. If we may judge by the usual fortune of folklore, these
private spiritualistic rites, without temple, or state-supported
priestly order, were no new things in the early centuries of
Christianity, but they had not till then occupied the attention of
philosophers and men of letters. The dawn of our faith was the late
twilight of the ancient creeds, the classic gods were departing,
belief was waning, ghosts were walking, even philosophers were
seeking for a sign. The mysteries of the East had invaded Hellas.
The Egyptian theory and practice were of special importance. By
certain sacramental formulas, often found written on papyrus, the
gods could be constrained, and made, like mediaeval devils, the
slaves of the magician. Examples will occur later. This idea was
alien to the Greek mind, at least to the philosophic Greek mind.
The Egyptians, like Michael Scott, had books of dread, and an old
Egyptian romance turns on the evils which arose, as to William of
Deloraine, from the possession of such a volume. {63} Half-
understood strings of Hebrew, Syriac, and other 'barbarous' words
and incantations occur in Greek spells of the early Christian age.
Again, old Hellenic magic rose from the lower strata of folklore
into that of speculation. The people, the folk, is the unconscious
self, as it were, of the educated and literary classes, who, in a
twilight of creeds, are wont to listen to its promptings, and return
to the old ancestral superstitions long forgotten.

The epoch of the rise of modern spiritualism was analogous to that
when the classical and oriental spiritualism rose into the sphere of
the educated consciousness In both periods the marvellous
'phenomena' were practically the same, and so were the perplexities,
the doubts, the explanatory hypotheses of philosophical observers.
This aspect of the modern spiritualistic epidemic did not escape
attention. Dr. Leonard Marsh, of the University of Vermont,
published, in 1854, a treatise called The Apocatastasis, or Progress
Backwards. He proved that the marvels of the Foxes, of Home, and
the other mediums, were the old marvels of Neoplatonism. But he
draws no conclusion except that spiritualism is retrogressive. His
book is wonderfully ill-printed, and, though he had some curious
reading, his style was cumbrous, jocular, and verbose. It may,
therefore, be worth while, in the light of anthropological research,
to show how very closely human nature has repeated its past
performances.

The new marvels were certainly not stimulated by literary knowledge
of the ancient thaumaturgy. Modern spiritualism is an effort to
organise and 'exploit' the traditional and popular phenomena of
rapping spirits, and of ghosts. Belief in these had always lived an
underground life in rural legend, quite unharmed by enlightenment
and education. So far, it resembled the ordinary creeds of
folklore. It is probable that, in addition to oral legend, there
was another and more literary source of modern thaumaturgy. Books
like Glanvil's, Baxter's, those of the Mathers and of Sinclair, were
thumbed by the people after the literary class had forgotten them.
Moreover, the Foxes, who started spiritualism, were Methodists, and
may well have been familiar with 'old Jeffrey,' who haunted the
Wesleys' house, and with some of the stories of apparitions in
Wesley's Arminian Magazine.

If there were literary as well as legendary sources of nascent
spiritualism, the sources were these. Porphyry, Iamblichus,
Eusebius, and the life of Apollonius of Tyana, cannot have
influenced the illiterate parents of the new thaumaturgy. This fact
makes the repetition, in modern spiritualism, of Neoplatonic
theories and Neoplatonic marvels all the more interesting and
curious.

The shortest cut to knowledge of ancient spiritualism is through the
letter of Porphyry to Anebo, and the reply attributed to Iamblichus.
Porphyry, the disciple of Plotinus, was a seeker for truth in divine
things. Prejudice, literary sentiment, and other considerations,
prevented him from acquiescing in the Christian verity. The
ordinary paganism shocked him, both by its obscene and undignified
myths, and by many features of its ritual. He devised non-natural
interpretations of its sacred legends, he looked for a visible or
tangible 'sign,' and he did not shrink from investigating the
thaumaturgy of his age. His letter of inquiry is preserved in
fragments by Eusebius, and St. Augustine: Gale edited it, and, as
he says, offers us an Absyrtus (the brother of Medea, who scattered
his mutilated remains) rather than a Porphyry. {65a} Not all of
Porphyry's questions interest us for our present purpose. He asks,
among other things: How can gods, as in the evocations of gods, be
made subject to necessity, and _compelled_ to manifest themselves?
{65b}

How do you discriminate between demons, and gods, that are manifest,
or not manifest? How does a demon differ from a hero, or from a
mere soul of a dead man?

By what sign can we be sure that the manifesting agency present is
that of a god, an angel, an archon, or a soul? For to boast, and to
display phantasms, is common to all these varieties. {65c}

In these perplexities, Porphyry resembles the anxious spiritualistic
inquirer. A 'materialised spirit' alleges himself to be Washington,
or Franklin, or the lost wife, or friend, or child of him who seeks
the mediums. How is the inquirer, how was Porphyry to know that the
assertion is correct, that it is not the mere 'boasting' of some
vulgar spirit? In the same way, when messages are given through a
medium's mouth, or by raps, or movements of a table, or a
planchette, or by automatic writing, how (even discounting
imposture) is the source to be verified? How is the identity of the
spirit to be established? This question of discerning spirits, of
identifying them, of not taking an angel for a devil, or vice versa,
was most important in the Middle Ages. On this turned the fate of
Joan of Arc: Were her voices and visions of God or of Satan? They
came, as in the cases mentioned by Iamblichus, with a light, a
hallucination of brilliance. When Jean Brehal, Grand Inquisitor of
France, in 1450-1456, held the process for rehabilitating Joan,
condemned as a witch in 1431, he entered learnedly into the tests of
'spirit-identity'. {66a} St. Theresa was bidden to try to exorcise
her visions, by the sign of the Cross. Saint or sorcerer? it was
always a delicate inquiry.

Iamblichus, in his reply to Porphyry's doubts, first enters into
theology pretty deeply, but, in book ii. chap. iii. he comes, as it
were, to business. The nature of the spiritual agency present on
any occasion may be ascertained from his manifestations or
epiphanies. All these agencies show _in a light_, we are reminded
inevitably of the light which accompanied the visions of Colonel
Gardiner and of Pascal. Joan of Arc, too, in reply to her judges,
averred that a light (claritas) usually accompanied the voices which
came to her. {66b} These things, if we call them hallucinations,
were, at least, hallucinations of the good and great, and must be
regarded not without reverence. But modern spiritualistic and
ghostly literature is full of lights which accompany
'manifestations,' or attend the nocturnal invasions of apparitions.
Examples are so common that they can readily be found by any one who
studies Mrs. Crowe's Night Side of Nature, or Home's Life, or
Phantasms of the Living, or the Proceedings of the Psychical
Society. Meantime Homer, and Theocritus in familiar passages,
attest this belief in light attendant on the coming of the divine,
while the Norse Sagas, and the well-known tale of Sir Charles Lee's
daughter and the ghost of her mother (1662), speak for the same
belief in the pre-Christian north, and in the society of the
Restoration. {67a} A light always comes among the Eskimo, when the
tornak, or familiar spirit, visits the Angekok or sorcerer. Here,
then, is harmony enough in the psychical beliefs of all time, as
when we learn that lights were flashed by the spirits who beset the
late Rev. Stainton Moses. {67b} Unluckily, while we have this cloud
of witnesses to the belief in a spiritual light, we are still
uncertain as to whether the seeing of such a light is a physical
symptom of hallucination. This is the opinion of M. Lelut, as given
in his Amulette de Pascal (p. 301): 'This globe of fire . . . is a
common constituent of hallucinations of sight, and may be regarded
at once as their most elementary form, and their highest degree of
intensity'. M. Lelut knew the phenomenon among mystics whom he had
observed in his practice as an 'alienist'. He also quotes a story
told of himself by Benvenuto Cellini. If we can admit that this
hallucination of brilliant light may be produced in the conditions
of a seance, whether modern, savage, or classical, we obtain a
partial solution of the problem presented by the world-wide
diffusion of this belief. Of course, once accepted as an element in
spiritualism, a little phosphorus supplies the modern medium with a
requisite of his trade. {68a}

Returning to Iamblichus, he classifies his phantasmogenetic agencies
by the _kind_ of light they show; greater or less, more or less
divided, more or less pure, steady or agitated (ii. 4). The arrival
of demons is attended by disturbances. {68b} Heroes are usually
very noisy in their manifestations: a hero is a polter-geist,
'sounds echo around' (ii. 8). There are also subjective moods
diversely generated by diverse apparitions; souls of the dead, for
example, prompt to lust (ii. 9). On the whole, a great deal of
experience is needed by the thaumaturgist, if he is to distinguish
between one kind of manifestation and another. Even Inquisitors
have differed in opinion.

Iamblichus next tackles the difficult question of imposition and
personation by spirits. Thus a soul, or a spirit, may give itself
out for a god, and exhibit the appropriate phantasmagoria: may
boast and deceive (ii. 10). This is the result of some error or
blunder in the ceremony of evocation. {69} A bad or low spirit may
thus enter, disguised as a demon or god, and may utter deceitful
words. But all arts, says our guide, are liable to errors, and the
'sacred art' must not be judged by its occasional imperfections. We

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