If a Man die, shall he live again ? - The Problem not solved by Spiritistic Phenomena. - The Phenomena admitted. - Their Supernatural Origin denied. - Explained by the Hypothesis. - Subsidiary Hypothesis. - An Intelligent Dynamic Force. - Its Characteristics. - Limited by Medium's Intelligence. - It is controlled by Suggestion. - Phenomena fail in Presence of Scepticism. - Reasons. - Mediumistic Frauds. - The Primary Lesson in Spiritistic Investigation. - Mediums not necessarily dishonest. - Their Honest Belief in the Phenomena. - Suggestion explains all. - Illustrations from Hypnotism. - Convincing Character of Alleged Communi cations. - Telepathic Explanations. - General Conclusions.
THE next subject which claims our attention in connection with the hypothesis under consideration is that of modern spiritism. It is approached with much diffidence and some misgivings, not because of any doubt as to the applicability of the hypothesis to the vast range of so-called spiritual phenomena, but because of the transcendent interest and importance of the subject to all mankind. It cannot be forgotten that millions of human beings base their hopes of a life beyond the grave upon their belief that in the phenomena of spiritism they have tangible evidence of the immortality of the soul, and that by means of such phenomena they can be put into communication with the spirits of the loved ones who have gone before. The fact cannot be ignored that there are millions of stricken hearts whose wounds have been healed by the consolation afforded by that conviction. The great question, "If a man die, shall he live again?" has been by these phenomena satisfactorily answered for many whom revealed religion failed to satisfy, for many whose reasoning powers have failed to grasp the logic of the theologian.
It were an unwelcome task to throw a shade of doubt upon the validity of evidence which to many seems to be "confirmation strong as proofs of Holy Writ; " and if in the perusal of the following pages such doubt arises, the reader is begged to discriminate between the question of the validity of evidence and the question of fact. For, be it remembered, I shall not undertake to prove that the souls of men do not live after the death of the body. That question stands just where it has always stood. It is a problem which, outside of revelation, is no nearer a solution than it was when Job propounded the momentous question. Neither will I undertake to say that the spirits of the dead do not and cannot communicate with the living. I do not know. But I do undertake to say, and will attempt to prove, that the phenomena of spiritism, so-called, do not constitute valid evidence of the ability of spirits of the dead to hold intercourse with the living. In doing so, no attempt will be made to deny the phenomena of spiritism.
On the contrary, I shall not only admit the possibility of every phenomenon alleged by any respectable number of reputable witnesses to have occurred, but I shall also assume the substantial accuracy of the general statements made by spiritists regarding the leading phenomena of spiritism. But I shall attempt to explain their origin on other grounds than the supposition that they are caused by the spirits of the dead. In other words, I admit the alleged phenomena, but deny the alleged cause.
I will not waste time, however, by attempting to prove by experiments of my own, or of others, that such phenomena do occur. It is too late for that. The facts are too well known to the civilized world to require proofs at this time. The man who denies the phenomena of spiritism to-day is not entitled to be called a sceptic, he is simply ignorant; and it would be a hopeless task to attempt to enlighten him. I shall indulge in the hope, however, that by explaining the origin of the phenomena on rational pitnciples, and thus removing them from the realm of the supernatural, those who now assume to be sceptical may be induced to investigate for themselves. It is easy to deny the existence of that for which we cannot account by reference to known laws, and it is easy to believe in that which can be thus explained. This is especially true in regard to phenomena which are popularly attributed to a supernatural origin. Modern scientists have an-easy way of treating such phenomena, which consists in denying their existence and refusing to investigate. Such men would plug their own ears and deny the phenomenon of thunder if they could not account for it by reference to laws with which they are familiar.
And such a proceeding would be no more senseless than, at this day, to deny the phenomena of spiritism.
In justice, however, to those scientists who have sought to investigate the subject, and have failed to witness the phenomena promised, it must be said that in many instances their failure is attributable, not to any fault of their own, or lack of earnest purpose on their part, but to a want of knowledge of the fundamental laws which pertain to the production of such phenomena. The reasons for the frequent failure to produce psychic phenomena in presence of avowed sceptics has been fully discussed in a previous chapter of this book, to which the reader is referred. But at the risk of repetition they will be restated in their proper place in this chapter, as they pertain to the subject of so-called spirit phenomena.