Cock Lane and Common-Sense eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 347 pages of information about Cock Lane and Common-Sense.

The ‘mediums’ of modern spiritualism, like Francis Fey, are, or pretend to be, subject to fits, anaesthesia, jerks, convulsive movements, and trance.  As Mr. Tylor says about his savage jossakeeds, powwows, Birraarks, peaimen, everywhere ’these people suffer from hysterical, convulsive, and epileptic affections’.  Thus the physical condition, all the world over, of persons who exhibit most freely the accepted phenomena, is identical.  All the world over, too, the same persons are credited with the rejected phenomena, clairvoyance, ‘discerning of spirits,’ powers of voluntary ’telepathic ’and ‘telekinetic’ impact.  Thus we find that uniform and recurrent evidence vouches for a mass of phenomena which science scouts.  Science has now accepted a portion of the mass, but still rejects the stranger occurrences.  Our argument is that their invariably alleged presence, in attendance on the minor occurrences, is, at least, a point worthy of examination.  The undesigned coincidences of testimony represent a great deal of smoke, and proverbial wisdom suggests a presumption in favour of a few sparks of fire.  Now, if there are such sparks, the animistic hypothesis may not, of course, be valid,—­’spirits’ may not exist,—­but the universal belief in their existence may have had its origin, not in normal facts only, but in abnormal facts.  And these facts, at the lowest estimate, must suggest that man may have faculties, and be surrounded by agencies, which physical science does not take into account in its theory of the universe and of human nature.

We have already argued that the doctrines of theism and of the soul need not to be false, even if they were arrived at slowly, after a succession of grosser opinions.  But if the doctrines were reached by a process which started from real facts of human nature, observed by savages, but not yet recognised by physical science, then there may have been grains of truth even in the cruder and earlier ideas, and these grains of gold may have been disengaged, and fashioned, not without Divine aid, into the sacred things of spiritual religion.

The stories which we have been considering are often trivial, sometimes comic; but they are universally diffused, and as well established as universally coincident testimony can establish anything.  Now, if there be but one spark of real fire to all this smoke, then the purely materialistic theories of life and of the world must be reconsidered.  They seem very well established, but so have many other theories seemed, that are long gone the way of all things human.


{0a} Fortnightly Review, February 1866, and in a lecture, 1895.

{0b} This diary was edited for private circulation, by a son of Mr. Proctor’s, who remembers the disturbances.

{0c} See essays here on Classical and Savage Spiritualism.

{0d} This was merely a cheerful obiter dictum by the learned President.

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Cock Lane and Common-Sense from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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