WHILE there is doubtess a recognized standard of normal perception, yet the acuteness with which sensations are perceived by different individuals, even in ordinary health, passes through a wide scale of variation, both above and below this standard. The difference in the ability to see and recognize natural objects, signs, and indications, between the ordinary city denizen and, for instance, the American Indian or the white frontiersman, hunter, or scout, is something marvellous.
So, also, regarding the power to distinguish colors. One person may not be able to distinguish even the simple or primary colors, as, for example, red from blue or green, while the weavers of Central or Eastern Asia distinguish with certainty two hundred or three hundred shades which are entirely undistinguishable to ordinary
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So of sound. One ear can hardly be said to make any distinction whatever regarding pitch, while to another the slightest variation is perfectly perceptible. Some even do not hear at all sounds above or below a certain pitch; some persons of ordinary hearing within a certain range of pitch, nevertheless, have never heard the song of the canary bird, and perhaps have lived through a large portion of their lives without even knowing that it was a song-bird at all. Its song was above the range of their hearing. Some never hear the sound of the piccolo, or octave flute, while others miss entirely the lowest notes of the organ.
There is the same great difference in perception by touch, taste, and smell. In certain conditions of disease, accompanied by great depression of the vital forces, this deviation from normal perception is greatly increased. I have had a patient who presented the following briefly-outlined phenomena: -
After a long illness, during which other interesting psychical phenomena were manifested, as convalescence progressed, I had occasion to notice instances of supernormal perception, and to test it I made use of the following expedient: Taking an old-fashioned copper cent, I carefully enveloped it in a piece of ordinary tissue paper. This was then covered by another and then another, until the coin had acquired six complete envelopes of the paper, and formed a little flat parcel, easily held in the palm of my hand.
Taking this with me, I visited my patient. She was lying upon a sofa, and as I entered the room I took a chair and sat leisurely down beside her, having the little package close in the palm of my right hand. I took her right hand in mine in such a manner that the little package was between our hands in close contact with her palm as well as my own. I remarked upon the weather and commenced the routine duty of feeling her pulse with my left hand. A minute or two was then passed in banter and conversation, designed to thoroughly engage her attention, when all at once she commenced to wipe her mouth with her handkerchief and to spit and sputter with her tongue and lips, as if to rid herself of some offensive taste or substance. She then looked up suspiciously at me and said:
" I wonder what you are doing with me now."
Then suddenly pulling her hand away from mine she exclaimed:
"I know what it is; you have put a nasty piece of copper in my hand."
Through all these coverings the coppery emanation from the coin had penetrated her system, reached her tongue, and was perceptible to her supernormal taste.
This patient could distinguish with absolute certainty "mesmerized" water from that which had not been so treated; my finger, also, pointed at her even at a distance and when her back was turned to me caused convulsive action, and the same result followed when the experiment was made through a closed door, and when she did not suspect that I was in the neighborhood.
It will be seen, then, how marvellously the action of certain senses may be exalted by long and careful training on the one hand, and suddenly by disease on the other. We have seen, moreover, how some persons known as sensitives are able to receive impressions by thought-transference so as to name cards, repeat words and fictitious names, both of persons and places, merely thought of but not spoken by another person known as as the agent or operator, and to draw diagrams unmistakably like those formed in the mind or intently looked upon by the agent.
We have also seen how the hypnotized or mesmerized subject is able to detect objects which have only been touched or handled by the mes-merizer, and even to feel pain inflicted upon him, and recognize by taste substances put in the mes-merizer's mouth.
It will be seen, then, that not only increased but entirely supernormal perception on the part of some individuals is a well-established fact. But all these conditions of increased power of perception, and especially thought-transference, must be carefully distinguished from independent clairvoyance. It is not the purpose of this paper to discuss the method or philosophy of clairvoyance, but simply to call attention to well-authenticated facts illustrating the exercise of this power, and to briefly point to the current theories regarding it.
A belief in supernormal perception, and especially in the clairvoyant vision, is apparent in the history, however meagre it may be, of every ancient nation.
Hebrew history is full of instances of it. A striking example is recorded as occurring during the long war between Syria and Israel. The King of Syria had good reasons for suspecting that in some manner the King of Israel was made acquainted with all his intended military operations, since he was always prepared to thwart them at every point. Accordingly he called together his chiefs and demanded to know who it was among them who thus favored the King of Israel, to which one of the chiefs replied: "It is none of thy servants, O King: but Elisha, a prophet that is in Israel, telleth the King of Israel the words that thou speakest in thy chamber."