My suggestion is that the trivial, rejected, or unheeded phenomena vouched for by the evidence here defended may, not inconceivably, be of considerable importance. But, stating the case at the lowest, if we are only concerned with illusions and fables, it cannot but be curious to note their persistent uniformity in savage and civilised life.
To make the first of our two main positions clear, and in part to justify ourselves in asking any attention for such matters, we now offer an historical sketch of the relations between Science and the so-called ‘Miraculous’ in the past.
[Footnote 1: Primitive Culture, i. 156. London, 1891.]
[Footnote 2: Ueber psychische Beobachiungen bei Naiurvuelkern. Leipzig, Gunther, 1890.]
[Footnote 3: See especially pp. 922-926. The book is interesting in other ways, and, indeed, touching, as it describes the founding of a new Red Indian religion, on a basis of Hypnotism and Christianity.]
[Footnote 4: Programme of the Society, p. iv.]
[Footnote 5: Tylor, Primitive Culture, i, 9, 10.]
[Footnote 6: Ellis, Polynesian Researches, ii. p. 240.]
[Footnote 7: Hallucinations and Illusions, English edition, pp. 69-70, 297.]
[Footnote 8: Sir William Hamilton’s Lectures, i. 345.]
[Footnote 9: Maudsley, Kerner, Carpentor, Du Prel, Zangwill.]
[Footnote 10: Coleridge’s mythical maid (p. 10) is set down by Mr. Samuel Laing to an experiment of Braid’s! No references are given.—Laing: Problems of the Future.]
SCIENCE AND ‘MIRACLES’
Research in the X region is not a new thing under the sun. When Saul disguised himself before his conference with the Witch of Endor, he made an elementary attempt at a scientific test of the supernormal. Croesus, the king, went much further, when he tested the clairvoyance of the oracles of Greece, by sending an embassy to ask what he was doing at a given hour on a given day, and by then doing something very bizarre. We do not know how the Delphic oracle found out the right answer, but various easy methods of fraud at once occur to the mind. However, the procedure of Croesus, if he took certain precautions, was relatively scientific. Relatively scientific also was the inquiry of Porphyry, with whose position our own is not unlikely to be compared. Unable, or reluctant, to accept Christianity, Porphyry ‘sought after a sign’ of an element of supernormal truth in Paganism. But he began at the wrong end, namely at Pagan spiritualistic seances, with the usual accompaniments of darkness and fraud. His perplexed letter to Anebo, with the reply attributed to Iamblichus, reveal Porphyry wandering puzzled among mediums, floating lights, odd noises, queer dubious ‘physical phenomena.’ He did not begin with accurate experiments as to the existence of rare, and apparently supernormal human faculties, and he seems to have attained no conclusion except that ‘spirits’ are ’deceitful.’