It is true there has been much doubt and discussion on this vital point, the objectors maintaining that sight was possible and practicable by experts, notwithstanding the precautions used in blindfolding; in short, that the whole thing might safely be set down as deception and fraud.
In the face of facts such as are here cited, and the thousand others that might be adduced, it is hardly possible to treat this charge seriously.
To such objectors, cumulative evidence regarding facts out of their own mental horizon is useless. Their motto is: "No amount of evidence can establish a miracle;" and their definition of a miracle is something done, or alleged to have been done, contrary to the laws of nature. But the objector who refuses credence to well-attested facts on that ground alone, simply assumes that he is acquainted with all the laws of nature.
A miracle, really, is only something alleged to have been done, and we are not able to explain how; nevertheless, it may be perfectly in accordance with natural laws which we did not understand or even know existed. To the West Indian, whom Columbus found in the New World, an eclipse of the sun was a miracle of the most terrible character; to the astronomer it was a simple fact in nature. To the ignorant boor,
"talking with Chicago" or cabling between New York and London is a miracle; to the electrician it is an everyday, well-understood affair. For a long time scientific men did not believe in the existence of globular, slowly-moving electricity; if such a thing had existed, it certainly should have put in an appearance before members of the "Academy," or "Royal Society" some time in the course of all these years; but it never had done so; only a few cooks, blacksmiths, or backwoodsmen had ever seen it, and they certainly were not the sort of people to report scientific matter; they did not know how to observe, and undoubtedly "they did not see what they thought they saw." But for all that, globular, slowly-moving electricity is now a well known fact in nature.
Neither the West Indian, the ignorant boor, nor the man of science had, at the time these several facts were presented to him, "any place in the existing fabric of his thought into which such facts could be fitted." The fabric of thought in each case must be changed, enlarged, modified, before the alleged facts could be received or assimilated.
The objector to the fact of clairvoyance and other facts in the new psychology is often simply deficient in the knowledge which would enable him properly to judge of these facts; he may be an excellent mathematician, physicist, editor, or even physician, but he has been educated to deal with a certain class of facts, and only by certain methods, and he is wholly unfitted to deal with another class of facts, perhaps requiring quite different treatment.
An excellent chemist might not be just the man to analyze questions of finance or to testify as an expert on the tariff, or a suspension bridge; the "texture of his thought" would need some modifying to fit him for these duties; indeed, he is fortunate if he can even be quite sure of morphia when he sees it; it might be a ptomaine.
If, then, the objector to well authenticated facts in any department of research expects his objections to be seriously considered, he must, at least, exhibit some intelligence in that department of research to which his objection relates.
I shall then simply reiterate the statement that there is abundant evidence of visual perception by some specially constituted persons, independent of any use of the physical organ of sight.
What the exact nature or method of this supra-normal vision is, may not yet be absolutely settled, any more than the exact nature of light or of life or even of electricity is settled, and each of their various methods of action known, though of the fact itself in any of these cases there is no doubt.
From a careful consideration of the best authenticated facts and examples, we are led to believe that the faculty of clairvoyance is no supernatural gift, but may be possessed, to some degree, by many, perhaps by all, people; that it is a natural condition, developed and brought into exercise by a few, but undeveloped and dormant in most; that the faculty may include not only the power of obtaining visual perceptions at a distance and under circumstances which render ordinary vision impossible, but also the perception of general truth and the relation of things in nature to such a degree as to render the person who possesses it a teacher and prophet of seemingly supernatural endowments. Carefully excluding cases of unusual extension, or skill in using normal perceptive faculties, and also thought-transference, which, although bearing a certain relation to clairvoyance, should not be confounded with it, the phenomena of independent clairvoyance appear in certain persons under the following conditions: -
In certain states, brought about by disease, and at the near approach of death, in the hypnotic 8 condition, whether self-induced or produced by the influence of a second person, and especially in the condition known as trance; it may also appear in sleep of the ordinary kind - in dreams, and especially in the condition of reverie or the state between sleeping and waking; a few persons also possess the clairvoyant faculty while in their natural condition, without losing their normal consciousness. In general it may be said that the faculty is most likely to appear when there exists a condition of abstraction, and the mind is acting without the restraint and guidance of the usual consciousness - and it reaches its most perfect exercise when this usual guidance ceases entirely - the body becoming inactive and anaesthetic and the mind acting independent of its usual manifesting organs. Such is the condition in trance.
This view is, of course, in direct opposition to the materialistic philosophy which makes the mind simply a "group of phenomena," the result of organization, and absolutely dependent upon that organization for its action, and even for its existence. To discuss this question here would occupy too much space; besides, one of the objects of these papers is to show this mind, spirit, psychos, mentality, "group of phenomena," whatever it may be, and whatever name may be applied to it, acting under circumstances which will enable us to consider with greater intelligence this very question, viz.: Whether the mind, under some circumstances, is not capable of intelligent action independent of the brain and the whole material organization through which it ordinarily manifests itself.