Let us examine with some care the history of two examples of unusual or supranormal mental action, the first found in one of the earliest of human records, and reckoned as fully inspired; the other equally unusual occurring within the last half century and making no claim to any supernatural assistance.
The first example is presented in the first chapter of Genesis, and is a clear, connected, and in the main correct, though by no means complete, account of the changing conditions of the earth in the earliest geological periods, and of the appearance in their proper order of the different grades of life upon its surface. That such a written account should have existed three thousand years before any scientifically constructed schedule even of the order in which plants and and animals succeeded each other, much less of the manner in which the earth was prepared for their reception and nurture, is a most remarkable circumstance, regarded either from a literary or a scientific standpoint. It has been criticised for its lack of scientific exactness, and the supposed error of representing light as created before the sun, ignoring the early existence of aquatic life, and similar points. But let us take our stand with the grand old seer, whoever he may have been, whom we know as Moses, who gave to the world this graphic account of the order of creation so many centuries before science had thrown its light upon the condition of the earth in those far-off ages, and let us endeavor to see what his quickened vision enabled him to behold.
The panorama opens and discloses in an hour the grand progressive action of millions upon millions of years.
The first picture represents the created earth covered with water and enveloped in a thick mantle of steaming mist, causing a condition of absolute and impenetrable darkness upon its surface. In the language of the seer, "The earth was without form and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep." For ages the unbroken ocean which covered the earth was heated by internal fires; the rising vapor as it met the cooler atmosphere above was condensed and fell in one constant downpour of rain. Unceasing, steaming mist, vapor, and rain, wholly impenetrable to light: such were the conditions.
At length, as the cooling process went on, the density of the mists was diminished; - the wonderful fiat went forth, "Let light be" - and light was. But still the mantle hung close upon the unbroken ocean.
The second picture appears. Not only was there light but a firmament - an arch with a clear space underneath it; and it divided the waters which were above it from the waters which were beneath it.
Picture the third. The waters were gathered together and the continents appeared; and the land was covered with verdure - plants and trees, each bearing seed after its kind. Of the inhabitants of the sea the seer had taken no account. It was simply a picture that he saw - a natural, phenomenal representation.
Picture the fourth. The mists and clouds are altogether dispelled. The clear sky appears. The sun comes forth to rule the day - the moon to rule the night. The stars also appear.
Picture the fifth. The lower orders of animals are in full possession of the earth and sea - fish, fowl, and sea-monsters.
Picture the sixth. The higher orders of creation, mammals and man.
Such was the phenomenal aspect of the various epochs of creation roughly outlined, strong, distinct, and in the main true. Not even the scientific critic with his present knowledge could combine more strength and truth, with so few strokes of the brush.
Relieved of the burden of inspiration and the necessity for presenting absolute and unchangeable truth, and presenting the seer as simply telling what he saw, the picture is wonderful, and the telling is most graphic. It needed no deity nor angel to tell it - it was there - and the subliminal self of the seer whose special faculty it was to see, perceived the scene in all its grandeur. He also was the one best fitted to perceive the laws which should make his people great, and describe the forms and ceremonies which should captivate their senses and lead them on to higher intellectual, moral, and ethical development.
Next take the other example. Fifty years ago a young man, not yet twenty years of age, uneducated, a grocer's boy and shoemaker's apprentice, was hypnotized; and it was found that he had a most remarkable mental or psychical constitution. He had most unusual experiences, and presented unusual psychical phenomena which need not be recounted here.
At length it was impressed upon him as it might have been upon Socrates or Joan of Arc, or Swedenborg or Mahomet, that he had a mission and had a message to give to the world. He came from the rural town where he had spent his boyhood to the city of New York and hired a room on a prominent thoroughfare. He then, in his abnormal condition, proceeded to choose those who should be specially associated with him in his work - men of character and ability whom he did not even know in his normal state. First: Three witnesses were chosen who should be fully cognizant of everything relating to the method by which the message or book was produced. Of these one was a clergyman, one a physician, and one an intelligent layman. Second: A scribe qualified to write out the messages as he dictated them, to edit and publish them. Third : A physician to put him into the hypnotic, or as it was then called, the magnetic condition, in which he was to dictate his messages.
The first lecture was given November 28th, 1845, and the last June 21st, 1847. During this time 157 lectures were given, varying in length from forty minutes to four hours, and they were all carefully written out by the scribe. To 140 of these manuscripts were attached 267 names of persons who listened to them and subscribed their names as witnesses at the end of each lecture - to some a single signature was affixed, to some, many. Any person really desirous of knowing the purport of these lectures and the manner of their delivery could be admitted by making application beforehand.