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On Miracles and Modern Spiritualism: The Scientific Aspect of the Supernatural.:

IV. Od-Force, Animal Magnetism, and Clairvoyance.

before proceeding to adduce the evidence of those persons who have witnessed phenomena which, if real, can only be attributed to preter-human intelligences, it will be well to take note of a series of curious observations on human beings, which prove that certain individuals are gifted with unusual powers of perception, sometimes by the ordinary senses leading to the discovery of new forces in nature, sometimes in a manner which no abnormal power of the ordinary senses will account for, but which imply the existence of faculties in the human mind of a nature analogous to those which are generally termed supernatural, and are attributed to the action of unembodied intelligences. It will be seen that we are thus naturally led up co higher phenomena, and are enabled, to'some extent, to bridge over the great gulf between the so-called natural and supernatural.

I wish first to call my reader's attention to the researches of Baron Reichenbach, as detailed in Dr. Gregory's translation of his elaborate work. He observed that persons in a peculiar nervous condition experienced well-marked and definite sensations on contact with magnets and crystals, and in total darkness saw luminous emanations from them. He afterwards found that numbers of persons in perfect health and of superior intellect could perceive the same phenomena. As an example, I may mention that among the numerous persons experimented on by Baron Reichenbach were:

  • de. Endlicher, Professor of Botany and Director of the Botanic Garden of Vienna. de. nied, a physician at Vienna, in extensive practice,very active and healthy.
  • M. Wilhelm Hochstetter, son of Professor Hochstetter of Esslingen.
  • M. Theodore Kotschy, a clergyman, botanist, and well-known traveller in Africa and Persia; a powerful, vigorous, perfectly healthy man.
  • de. Huss, Professor of Clinical Medicine, Stockholm, and Physician to the King of Sweden.
  • de. Ragsky, Professor of Chemistry in the Medical and Surgical Josephakademie in Vienna.
  • M. Constantin Delhez, a French philologist, residing n Vienna.
  • M. Ernst Pauer, Consistorial Councillor, Vienna. M.
  • Gustav Auschnetz, Artist, Vienna.
  • Babon von Obeelaender, Forest Superintendent in Moravia.

All these saw the lights and flames on magnets, and described the various details of their comparative size, form, and colour, their relative magnitude on the positive and negative poles, and their appearance under various conditions, such as combinations of several magnets, images formed by lenses, &c.; and their evidence exactly confirmed the descriptions already given by the "sensitive" patients of a lower class, whose testimony had been objected to, when the observations were first published.

In addition to these, Dr. Diesing, Curator in the Imperial Academy of Natural History at Vienna, and the Chevalier Hubert von Earner, Barrister of Klagenfurt, did not see the luminous phenomena, but were highly sensitive to the various sensations excited by magnets and crystals. About fifty other persons in all conditions of life, of all ages, and of both sexes, saw and felt the same phenomena. In an elaborate review of Reichenbach's work in the "British and Foreign Medico-Chirurgical Review," the evidence of these twelve gentlemen, men of position and science, and three of them medical men, is completely ignored, and it is again and again asserted that the phenomena are subjective, or purely imaginary. The only particle of argument to support this view is, that a mesmeric patient was by suggestion made to see "lights" as well without as with a magnet. It appears to me, that it would be as reasonable to tell Gordon Cumming or Dr. Livingstone that they had never seen a real lion, because, by suggestion, a score of mesmeric patients can be made to believe they see lions in a lecture room. Unless it can be proved that Reichenbach and these twelve gentlemen, have none of them sense enough to apply simple tests (which, however, the details of the experiments show, were again and again applied), I do not see how the general objections made in the above-mentioned article, that Reichenbach is not a physiologist, and that he did not apply sufficient tests, can have the slightest weight against the mass of evidence he adduces. It is certainly not creditable to modern science, that these elaborate investigations should be rejected without a particle of disproof; and we can only impute it to the distasteful character of some of the higher phenomena produced, and which it is still the fashion of professors of the physical sciences to ignore without examination. I have seen it stated also, that Reichenbach's theory has been disproved by the use of an electro-magnet, and that a patient could not tell whether the current was on or off. But where is the detail of this experiment published, and how often has it been confirmed, and under what conditions? And if true in one case, how does it affect the question, when similar tests were applied to Richenbach's patients; and how does it apply to facts like this, which Reichenbach gives literally by the hundred? "Prof. D. Endlicher saw on the poles of an electro-magnet, flames forty inches high, unsteady, exhibiting a rich play of colours, and ending in a luminous smoke, which rose to the ceiling and illuminated it." (Gregory's Trans, p. 842.) The least the deniers of the facts can do, is to request these well-known individuals who gave their evidence to Reichenbach, to repeat the experiments again under exactly similar conditions, as no doubt in the interests of science they would be willing to do. If then, by suggestion, they can all be led to describe equally well defined and varied appearances when only sham magnets are used, the odylic flames and other phenomena will have been fairly shown to be very doubtful. But as long as negative statements only are made, and the whole body of facts testified to by men at least equal in scientific attainments to their opponents, are left untouched, no unprejudiced individual can fail to acknowledge that the researches of Reichenbach have established the existence of a vast and connected series of new and important natural phenomena. Doctors Gregory and Ashburner in England, state that they have repeated several of Reichenbach's experiments, under test conditions, and have found them quite accurate.

Mr Rutter, of Brighton, has made, quite independently, a number of curious experiments, which he has detailed in his little work on "Magnetised Currents and the Magnetoscope," and which were witnessed by hundreds of medical and scientific men. He showed that the various metals and other substances, the contact of a male or, female hand, or even of a letter written by a male or female, each produced distinct effects on the magnetoscope. And a single drop of water from a glass in which a homoeopathic globule had been dissolved, caused a characteristic motion of the instrument when dropped upon the hand of the operator, even when he did not know the substance employed. Dr. King corroborates these experiments, and states that he has seen a decillionth of a grain of silex, and a billionth of a grain of quinine cause motion by means of this apparatus. Every caution was taken in conducting the experiments, which were equally successful when a third party was placed between Mr. R. and the magnetoscope. Magnets and crystals also produced powerful effects, as indicated by Reichenbach. Yet Mr. Rutter's experiments, like Reichenbach's, are ignored by our scientific men, although during several years he offered facility for their investigation.*

* Dr. Carpenter ("Mental Physiology," p. 287) states that Mr. Rutter's experiments were shown to be fallacies by Dr. Madden, who found that unless he knew the substance operated on, no definite indications were given. But this only proves that different operators have different degrees of power. And Dr. Carpenter very unfairly omits to notice three very important classes of test experiments made by Mr. Rutter. In one a crystal is placed on a stand altogether detached from the instrument or the table on which it stands. Yet when this is touched, • it sets the pendulum in motion; and the direction of the motion changes as the direction of the axis of the crystal is changed.— (Rutter's "Human Electricity," p. 151). Again, when the pendulum has acquired its full momentum, either rotary or oscillatory, it takes from 7 to 10 minutes to come to a state of rest. But if any piece of bone or other dead animal matter is placed in the operator's hand, the pendulum comes to a dead stop in from 6 to 20 seconds; a feat which cannot be performed voluntarily or by any amount of "expectant attention" (Op. cit. p. 147 and app. p. lv.) Again, knowledge of the substance operated on is not necessary with all operators, to produce definite and correct results (l. c. app. p. lvi.) "What are we to think of a writer who comes forward as a master to teach the public, and sets before them such a partial and one-sided account of the evidence as this?

The case of Jacques Aymar, whose powers were imputed by himself and others to the divining rod, but which were evidently personal, is one of the best attested on record, and one which indisputably proves the possession by him of a new sense in some degree resembling that of many other clairvoyants. Mr. Baring-Gould, in his "Curious Myths of the Middle Ages," gives a full account of the case with a reference to the original authorities. These are, M. Chauvin, a Doctor of Medicine, who was an eye-witness who publishes his narrative; the Sieur Pauthot, Dean of the College of Medicine at Lyons; and the Procès-verbal of the Procureur du Roi. The facts of the case are briefly as follows. On the 5th of July, 1692, a wine-seller and his wife were murdered and the bodies found in their cellar in Lyons, their money having been carried off. A bloody hedging bill was found by the side of the bodies, but no trace of the murderers was discovered. The officers of justice were completely at fault, when they were told of a man named Jacques Aymar, who, four years before had discovered a thief at Grenoble who was quite unsuspected of the crime. The man was sent for and taken to the cellar, where his divining rod became violently agitated, and his pulse rose as though he were in a fever. He then went out of the house, and walked along the streets like a hound following a scent. He crossed the court of the Archbishop's palace and down to the gate of the Rhone, when, it being night, the quest was relinquished. The next day, accompanied by three officers, he followed the track down the bank of the river to a gardener's cottage. He had declared that so far he had followed three murderers, but here two only entered the cottage, where he declared they had seated themselves at a table and had drunk wine from a particular bottle. The owner declared positively no one had been there, but Aymar, on testing each individual in the house, found two children who had been in contact with the murderers, and these reluctantly confessed that on Sunday morning when they were alone, two men had suddenly entered and had seated themselves and taken wine from the very bottle which had been pointed out. He then followed them down the river and discovered the places where they slept, and the particular chairs or benches they had used. After a time he reached the military camp of Sablon, and ultimately reached Beaucaire where the murderers had parted company, but he traced one of them into the prison, and among fourteen or fifteen prisoners pointed out a hunchback (who had only been an hour in the prison) as the murderer. He protested his innocence, but on being taken back along the road was recognised in every house where Aymar had previously traced him. This so confounded him that he confessed, and was ultimately executed for the murder.

During the process of this wonderful experiment, which occupied several days, Aymar was subjected to other tests by the Procurator General. The hedging bill, with which the murder was committed, with three others exactly like it, were secretly buried in different places in a garden. The diviner was then brought in; and his rod indicated where the blood-stained weapon was buried, but showed no movement over the others. Again they were all exhumed and reinterred, and the Comptroller of the Province himself bandaged Aymar's eyes and led him into the garden, with the same result. The two other murderers were afterwards traced, but they had escaped out of France. Pierre Gamier, Physician of the Medical College of Montpelier, has also given an account of various tests to which Aymar was subjected by himself, the Lieutenant General, and two other gentlemen to detect imposture; but they failed to discover a trace of deception, and he traced the course of a man who had robbed the Lieutenant General some months before, pointing out the exact side of a bed on which he had slept with another man.

Here is a case which one would think was demonstrated; the investigation having been carried on under the eyes of magistrates, officers, and physicians, and resulting in the discovery of a murder and the tracking out of his course with more minute accuracy than ever bloodhound tracked a fugitive slave,—yet Mr. Baring-Gould calls the man an "impostor," and speaks of his "exposé and downfall." And what are the grounds on which these harsh terms are used? Merely that at a later period, when brought to Paris to satisfy the curiosity of the great and learned, his power left him, and he seems to have either had totally false impressions or to have told lies to conceal his want of power. But how does this in the least affect the question? The fact that he was so easily found out at Paris, or rather that he there possessed no extraordinary powers, would surely prove rather, that there could not possibly have been any imposture in the former case when he stood every test, and instead of failing, succeeded. He can only be proved an impostor by proving all the witnesses to be also impostors, or by showing that no such crime was ever committed, or ever discovered. This, however, neither Mr. Baring-Gould nor any one else has ever attempted to do; and we must therefore conclude that the murder was really discovered by Jacques Aymar in the manner described, and that he undoubtedly possessed some equivalent to a new sense in many respects resembling the powers of some modern clairvoyants.

The subject of Animal Magnetism is still so much a disputed one among scientific men, and many of its alleged phenomena so closely border on, if they do not actually reach what is classed as supernatural, that I wish to give a few illustrations of the kind of facts by which it is supported. I will first quote the evidence of Dr. William Gregory, late Professor of Chemistry in the University of Edinburgh, who for many years made continued personal investigations into this subject, and has recorded them in his "Letters on Animal Magnetism," published in 1851. The simpler phenomena of what are usually termed "Hypnotism," and "Electro-Biology," are now universally admitted to be real; though it must never be forgotten, that they too had to fight their way through the same denials, accusations, and imputations, that are now made against clairvoyance, and phreno-mesmerism. The same men who advocated, tested, and established the truth of the more simple facts, claim that they have done the same for the higher phenomena; the same class of scientific and medical men who once denied the former, now deny the latter. Let us see then if the evidence for the one is as good as it was for the other.

Dr. Gregory defines several stages of clairvoyance, sometimes existing in the same, sometimes in different patients. The chief division, however, is into 1. Sympathy or thought-reading, and 2. True clairvoyance. The evidence for the first is so overwhelming, it is to be met with almost everywhere, and is so generally admitted, that I shall not occupy space by giving examples, although it is, I believe, still denied by the more materialistic physiologists. We will, therefore, confine our attention to the various phases of true clairvoyance.

Dr. Haddock, residing at Bolton, had a very remarkable clairvoyante (E.) under his care. Dr. Gregory says, "After I returned to Edinburgh, I had very frequent communication with Dr. H., and tried many experiments with this remarkable subject, sending specimens of writing, locks of hair, and other objects, the origin of which was perfectly unknown to Dr. H., and in every case, without exception, E. saw and described with accuracy the persons concerned" (p. 403).

Sir Walter C. Trevelyan, Bart., received a letter from a lady in London, in which the loss of a gold watch was mentioned. He sent the letter to Dr. H. to see if E. could trace the watch. She described the lady accurately, and her house and furniture minutely, and described the watch and chain, and described the person who had it, who, she said, was not a habitual thief, and said further that she could tell her handwriting. The lady, to whom these accounts were sent, acknowledged their perfect accuracy, but said, the description of the thief applied to one of her maids whom she did not suspect, so she sent several pieces of handwriting, including that of both her maids. The clairvoyante immediately selected that of the one she had described, and said—"she was thinking of restoring the watch, saying she had found it." Sir W. Trevelyan wrote with this information, but a letter from the lady crossed his, saying, the girl mentioned before by the clairvoyante, had restored the watch and said she had found it (p. 405.)

Sir W. Trevelyan communicated to Dr. Gregory another experiment he had made. He requested the Secretary of the Geographical Society to send him the writing of several persons abroad, not known to him, and without their names. Three were sent. E. discovered in each case, where they were; in two of them described their persons accurately; described in all three cases, the cities and countries in which they were, so that they could be easily recognised, and told the time by the clocks, which verified the place by difference of longitude (p. 407.)

Many other cases, equally well tested, are given in great detail by Dr. Gregory; and numerous cases are given of tests of what may be called simple direct clairvoyance. For example, persons going to see the phenomena purchase in any shop they please, a few dozens of printed mottoes, enclosed in nutshells. These are placed in a bag, and the clairvoyante takes out a nutshell and reads the motto. The shell is then broken open and examined, and hundreds of mottoes have been thus read correctly. One motto thus read contained ninety-eight words. Numbers of other equally severe test cases, are given by Dr. Gregory, devised and tried by himself and by other well-known persons.

Now will it be believed, that in the very elaborate article in the "British and Foreign Medico-Chirurgical Review" already referred to, on Dr. Gregory's and other works of an allied nature, not one single experiment of this kind is mentioned or alluded to? There is a great deal of general objection to Dr. Gregory's views, because he was a chemist and not specially devoted to physiology (forgetting that Dr. Elliotson and Dr. Mayo who testify to similar facts, were both specially devoted to physiology) and a few quotations of a general nature only are given; so that no reader could imagine that the work criticised was the result of observation or experiment at all. The case is a complete illustration of judicial blindness. The opponents dare not impute wilful falsehood to Dr. Gregory, Dr. Mayo, Dr. Haddock, Sir Walter Trevelyan, Sir T. Willshire, and other gentlemen who vouch for these facts; and yet the facts are of such an. unmistakable nature, that without imputing wilful falsehood they cannot be explained away. They are therefore silently ignored, or more probably the records of them are never read. But the silence or contempt of our modern scientific men cannot blind the world any longer to those grand and mysterious phenomena of mind, the investigation of which can alone conduct us to a knowledge of what we really are.

Dr. Herbert Mayo, F.RS., late Professor of Anatomy and Physiology in King's College, and of Comparative Anatomy in the Royal College of Surgeons, also gives his personal testimony to facts of a similar nature. In his "Letters on the Truths contained in Popular Superstitions" (2nd. Ed. p. 178), he says:—"From Boppard, where I was residing in the years 1845—46, I sent to an American, gentleman in Paris a lock of hair, which Col. C—, an invalid then under my care, had cut from his own head and wrapped in writing paper from his own writing desk. Col. C— was unknown even by name to this American gentleman, who had no clue whatever whereby to identify the proprietor of the hair. And all that he did was to place the paper in the hands of a noted Parisian somnambulist. She stated, in the opinion she gave on the case, that Col. C— had partial palsy of the hips and legs, and that for another complaint he was in the habit of using a surgical instrument. The patient laughed heartily at the idea of the distant somnambulist having so completely realised him."

Dr. Mayo also announces his conversion to a belief in the truth of phrenology and phreno-mesmerism, and Dr. Gregory gives copious details of experiments in which special care has been taken to avoid all the supposed sources of fallacy in phreno-mesmerism; yet although Dr. Mayo's work is included in the criticism already referred to, none of the facts he himself testifies to, nor the latest opinions he puts forward, are so much as once mentioned.

Dr. Joseph Haddock, a physician, resident and practising at Bolton, who has been already mentioned, has published a work entitled "Somnolism and Psycheism," in which he endeavours to classify the facts of mesmerism and clairvoyance, and to account for them on physiological and psychical principles. The work is well worth reading, but my purpose here is to bring forward one or two facts from those which he gives in an appendix to his work. Nothing is more common than for those who deny the reality of clairvoyance to ask contemptuously, "If it is true, why is not use made of it to discover lost property, or to get news from abroad ?" To such I commend the following statement, of which I can only give an abstract.

On Wednesday evening, December the 20th, 1848, Mr. Wood, grocer of Cheapside, Bolton, had his cash box with its contents stolen from his counting-house. He applied to the police and could get no clue, though he suspected one individual. He then came to Dr. Haddock to see if the girl, Emma, could discover the thief or the property. When put in rapport with Emma she was asked about the lost cash box, and after a few moments she began to talk as if to some one not present, described where the box was, what were its contents, how the person took it, where he first hid it; and then described the person, dress, associations of the thief so vividly, that Mr. Wood recognised a person he had not the least suspected. Mr. Wood immediately sought out this person, and gave him the option of coming at once to Dr. Haddock's or to the police office. He chose the former, and when he came into the room Emma started back, told him he was a had man, and had not on the same clothes as when he took the box. He at first denied all knowledge of the robbery, but after a time acknowledged that he had taken it exactly in the manner described by Emma, and it was accordingly recovered.

Now as the names, place, and date of this occurrence are given, and it is narrated by an English physician, it can hardly be denied without first making some inquiry at the place where it is said to have happened. The next instance is of clairvoyance at a much greater distance. A young man had sailed suddenly from Liverpool for New York. His parents immediately remitted him some money by the mail steamer, but they heard, some time afterwards, that he had never applied for it. The mother came twenty miles to Bolton to see if, by Emma's means, she could learn anything of him. After a little time Emma found him, described his appearance correctly, and entered into so many details as to induce his mother to rely upon her statements, and to request Dr. Haddock to make enquiries at intervals of about a fortnight. He did so, traced the young man by her means to several places, and the information thus acquired was sent to his parents. Shortly after, Dr. Haddock received information from the father that a letter had arrived from his son, and that "it was a most striking confirmation of Emma's testimony from first to last."

Dr. Edwin Lee, in his work on "Animal Magnetism," gives an account of fourteen stances at Brighton in private houses with Alexis Didier the well known clairvoyant. On every one of these occasions, he played at cards blindfolded, often naming his adversary's cards as well as his own, read numbers of cards written by the visitors and enclosed in envelopes, read any line asked for in any book, eight or ten pages farther on than the page opened, and described the contents of numbers of boxes, card-cases, and other envelopes. Dr. Lee also gives an account of the celebrated Robert Houdin's interview with Alexis when similar tests were applied by that great conjurer, who brought his own cards and dealt them himself, and yet Alexis immediately told him every card in both the hands without turning them up. Houdin took a book from his pocket and opening it asked Alexis to read a line at a particular level eight pages in advance. The clairvoyant stuck a pin in to mark the line and read four words which were found on the corresponding line at the ninth page forward. Houdin proclaimed it "stupefying", and the next day signed this declaration: "I cannot help stating that the facts above related are scrupulously exact, and the more I reflect upon them the more impossible do I find it to class them among the tricks which are the object of my art."

A fortnight later he sent a letter to M. de Mirville (by whom he had been introduced to Alexis) giving an account of a second, séance where the same results were repeated, and concluding:—" I therefore came away from this séance as astonished as any one can be, and fully convinced that it would be quite impossible for any one to produce such surprising effects by mere skill."

Mr. H. G. Atkinson, F.G.S., has shewn me one of the tests of clairvoyance by Adolphe Didier, brother of Alexis, which he saw produced himself at a private house in London. A well known nobleman wrote a word at the bottom of a piece of paper which he folded over repeatedly so that it was covered by five or six layers of paper. It was then given to Adolphe, who was surrounded by a circle of observers while he wrote with a pencil outside what had been written within. The curious point is that' he made several trials and crossed them out again but at length wrote the exact word, the others being approximations to it. This is very curious and indicates the existence of a new sense, a kind of rudimentary perception which can only get at the exact truth by degrees, and it corresponds remarkably with the manner in which clairvoyants generally describe objects. They do not say at once: "It is a medal," but "It is metal," "it is round and flat," "it has writing on it," and so on.

Now, when we have the evidence of Dr. Gregory, Dr. Mayo, Dr. Lee, Dr. Haddock, and of hundreds of other equally honest if not equally capable men who have witnessed similar facts, is it a satisfactory solution of the difficulty, that all of these persons in every case were the victims of imposture? Medical men are not very easily imposed on, especially in a matter which they can observe and test repeatedly; and when we find that such a celebrated professor of legerdemain as Houdin not only detected no imposture but declared the phenomena impossible to be the effect of skill or trick, we have a complete answer to all who, without investigation, proclaim the whole a cheat! In this case it is clear that there is no room for self-deception. Either every one of the cases of clairvoyance yet recorded (and they certainly number thousands) is the result of imposture, or we have ample proof that cert in individuals possess a new sense of which it is probable we all have the rudiments. If ordinary vision were as rare as clairvoyance, it would be just as difficult to prove its reality as it is now to establish the reality of this wonderful power. The evidence in its favour is absolutely conclusive to any one who will examine it, and who is not deluded by that most unphilosophical dogma that he knows a priori what is possible and what is impossible.

In a paper by Dr. T. Edwards Clark, of New York, on the Physiology of Trance, which appeared in the Quarterly Journal of Psychological Medicine, it is stated that a cataleptic patient was under the care of M. Despine, late Inspector of the Mineral Waters of Aix, in Savoy, who says of her:—"Not only could our patient hear by means of the palms of her hands, but we have seen her read without the assistance of the eyes, merely with the tips of the fingers, which she passed rapidly over the page that she wished to read. At other times we have seen her copy a letter word for word, reading it with her left elbow while she wrote with her right hand. During these proceedings, a thick pasteboard completely intercepted any visual ray that might have reached her eyes. The same phenomenon was manifested at the soles of her feet, on the epigastrium, and other parts of the body."

Dr. Clark adds:—"There are many other cases equally as strange as these, that have been noticed by different persons standing high in the medical profession."

The above test of holding a pasteboard before the eyes, is one which Dr. Carpenter informed me he considered conclusive, as he found that supposed clairvoyants always failed to see through it. But it is evident that he had never met with a case of very perfect clairvoyance like that above described.*

* Not one of the important facts mentioned in this chapter, on the authority of medical men, nor any others of a like nature to be found in the works here quoted, are taken notice of by Dr. Carpenter in his recent volume on "Mental Physiology;" in which he nevertheless boldly attempts to settle the whole question of the reality of such facts! It is, we suppose, owing to his limited space that, in a work of over 700 pp., none of the well-attested facts opposed to his views could be brought to the notice of his readers.

We will now pass to the evidence for the facts of what is termed Modern Spiritualism.

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