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Percy Greg
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 490 pages of information about Across the Zodiac.

“Well, I suppose this experience confirms you in your disbelief?”

“No,” said I.  “My first visits have generally been failures, and I have more than once been told that my own temperament is most unfavourable to the success of a seance.  Nevertheless, I have in some cases witnessed marvels perfectly inexplicable by known natural laws; and I have heard and read of others attested by evidence I certainly cannot consider inferior to my own.”

“Why,” he said, “I thought from your conversation last night you were a complete disbeliever.”

“I believe,” answered I, “in very little of what I have seen.  But that little is quite sufficient to dispose of the theory of pure imposture.  On the other hand, there is nothing spiritual and nothing very human in the pranks played by or in the presence of the mediums.  They remind one more of the feats of traditionary goblins; mischievous, noisy, untrustworthy; insensible to ridicule, apparently delighting to make fools of men, and perfectly indifferent to having the tables turned upon themselves.”

“But do you believe in goblins?”

“No,” I replied; “no more than in table-turning ghosts, and less than in apparitions.  I am not bound to find either sceptics or spiritualists in plausible explanations.  But when they insist on an alternative to their respective theories, I suggest Puck as at least equally credible with Satan, Shakespeare, or the parrot-cry of imposture.  It is the very extravagance of illogical temper to call on me to furnish an explanation because I say ’we know far too little of the thing itself to guess at its causes;’ but of the current guesses, imposture seems inconsistent with the evidence, and ‘spiritual agency’ with the character of the phenomena.”

“That,” replied Colonel A——­, “sounds common sense, and sounds even more commonplace.  And yet, no one seems really to draw a strong, clear line between non-belief and disbelief.  And you are the first and only man I ever met who hesitates to affirm the impossibility of that which seems to him wildly improbable, contrary at once to received opinion and to his own experience, and contrary, moreover, to all known natural laws, and all inferences hitherto drawn from them.  Your men of science dogmatise like divines, not only on things they have not seen, but on things they refuse to see; and your divines are half of them afraid of Satan, and the other half of science.”

“The men of science have,” I replied, “like every other class, their especial bias, their peculiar professional temptation.  The anti-religious bigotry of Positivists is quite as bitter and irrational as the theological bigotry of religious fanatics.  At present the two powers countervail and balance each other.  But, as three hundred years ago I should certainly have been burnt for a heretic, so fifty or a hundred years hence, could I live so long, I should be in equal apprehension of being burnt by some successor of Mr. Congreve, Mr. Harrison, or Professor Huxley, for presuming to believe in Providential government.”

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