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

I. Introductory.

in the following pages I have brought together a few examples of the evidence for facts usually deemed miraculous or supernatural, and therefore incredible; and I have prefixed to these some, general considerations on the nature of miracle, and on the possibility that much which has been discredited as such is not really miraculous in the sense of implying any alteration of the laws of nature. In that sense I would repudiate miracles as entirely as the most thorough sceptic. It may be asked if I have myself seen any of the wonders narrated in the following pages. I answer that I have witnessed facts of a similar nature to some of them, and have satisfied myself of their genuineness; and therefore feel that I have no right to reject the evidence of still more marvellous facts witnessed by others.*

• In Dr. Carpenter's recent work on "Mental Physiology" (p. 627), he refers to me, by name, as one of those who hare "committed themselves to the extraordinary proposition, that if we admit the reality of the lower phenomena (Class I., defined as "those which are conformable to our previous knowledge," &c.), the testimony which we accept as good for these ought to convince us of the higher (Classes II. and III., denned as "those which are in direct contrariety to our existing knowledge," &c). As he must refer to the above passage, and that eight lines further on, my readers will have an opportunity of judging of the accuracy of Dr. C.'s unqualified statement that I refer to different classes of facts, when my words are "facts of a similar nature." It will be seen further on that I have witnessed numerous facts quite incredible to Dr. C., because "in direct contrariety to his existing knowledge," but that other observers, whom I quote, have witnessed much more remarkable facts of the same class, which I therefore feel bound to accept on their testimony. This Dr. C. twists into an "extraordinary proposition!"

A single new and strange fact is, on its first announcement, often treated as a miracle, and not believed because it is contrary to the hitherto observed order of nature. Half a dozen such facts, however, constitute a little "order of nature" for themselves. They may not be a whit more understood than at first; but they cease to be regarded as miracles. Thus it will be with the many thousands of facts of which I have culled a few examples here. If but one or two of them are proved to be real, the whole argument against the rest, of "impossibility" and "reversal of the laws of nature," falls to the ground. I would ask any man desirous of knowing the truth, to read the following five works carefully through, and then say whether he can believe that the whole of the facts stated in them are to be explained by imposture or self-delusion. And let him remember that if but one or two of them are true, there ceases to be any strong presumption against the truth-of the rest. These works are—

  1. Reichenbach's Researches on Magnetism, Electricity, Heat, Light, &c., in their relations to the vital force. Translated by Dr. Gregory.
  2. Dr. Gregory's Letters on Animal Magnetism.
  3. R. Dale Owen's Footfalls on the Boundary of Another World.
  4. Hare's Experimental Investigation of the Spirit Manifestations.
  5. Home's Incidents of my Life.

All these are easily obtained, except the 4th, which may be had from the publisher of this work.

I subjoin a list of the persons whose names I have adduced in the following pages, as having been convinced of the truth and reality of most of these phenomena. I presume it will be admitted that they are honest men. If, then, these facts, which many of them declare they have repeatedly witnessed, never took place, I must leave my readers to account for the undoubted fact of their belief in them, as best they can. I can only do so by supposing these well-known men to have been all fools or madmen, which is to me more difficult than believing they are sane men, capable of observing matters of fact, and of forming a sound judgment as to whether or no they could possibly have been deceived in them. A man of sense will not lightly declare, as many of these do, not only that he has witnessed what others deem absurd and incredible, but that he feels morally certain he was not deceived in what he saw.


  1. Professor A. de Morgan—Mathematician and Logician.
  2. Professor Challis—Astronomer.
  3. Professor Wm. Gregory, M.D.—Chemist.
  4. Professor Robert Hare, M.D.—Chemist.
  5. Professor Herbert Mayo, M.D., F.R.S.—Physiologist.
  6. Mr. Rutter—Chemist.
  7. Dr. Elliotson—Physiologist.
  8. Dr. Haddock—Physician.
  9. Dr. Gully—Physician.
  10. Judge Edmonds—Lawyer.
  11. Lord Lyndhurst—Lawyer.
  12. Charles Bray, Philosophical Writer.
  13. Archbishop Whately—Clergyman.
  14. Rev. W. Kerr, M.A.—Clergyman.
  15. Hon. Col. E. B. Wilbraham—Military Man.
  16. Capt. R. F. Burton—Military Man.
  17. Nassau E. Senior—Political Economist.
  18. W. M. Thackeray—Author.
  19. T. A. Trollope—Author.
  20. E. D. Owen—Author and Diplomatist
  21. W. Howitt—Author.
  22. S. C. Hall—Author.

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