The Scientific Position

It would perhaps be premature to make any definite pronouncement

as to the scientific position in regard to the psychic phenomenon

known as "scrying," and certainly presumptuous on my part

to cite an authority from among the many who have examined

this subject, since all are not agreed upon the nature and

source of the observed phenomena. Their names are, moreover,

already identified with modern scientific research and theory,

so that to associate them with experimental psychology would

be to lend colour to the idea that modern science has recognized

this branch of knowledge. Nothing, perhaps, is further from

the fact, and while it cannot in any way be regarded as derogatory

to the highest scientist to be associated with others, of less

scientific attainment but of equal integrity, in this comparatively new

field of enquiry, it may lead to popular error to institute a connection.

It is still fresh in the mind how the Darwinian hypothesis was utterly

misconceived by the popular mind, the suggestion that man was descended

from the apes being generally quoted as a correct expression of

Darwin's theory, whereas he never suggested any such thing,

but that man and the apes had a common ancestor, which makes

of the ape rather a degenerate lemur than a human ancestor.

Other and more prevalent errors will occur to the reader, these

being due to the use of what is called "the evidence of the

senses"; and of all criteria the evidence of sensation is perhaps

the most faulty. Logical inference from deductive or inductive

reasoning has often enough been a good monitor to sense-perception,

and has, moreover, pioneered the man of science to correct

knowledge on more than one occasion. But as far as we know

or can learn from the history of human knowledge, our senses

have been the chiefest source of error. It is with considerable

caution that the scientist employs the evidence from sense

alone, and in the study of experimental psychology it is the sense

which has first to be corrected, and which, in fact, forms the great

factor in the equation. A person informs me that he can see a vision in

the crystal ball before him, and although I am in the same relation

with the "field" as he, I cannot see anything except accountable

reflections. This fact does not give any room for contradicting him or

any right to infer that it is all imagination. It is futile to say the

vision does not exist. If he sees it, it does exist so far as he is

concerned. There is no more a universal community of sensation than of

thought. When I am at work my own thought is more real than any

impression received through the sense organs. It is louder than the

babel of voices or the strains of instrumental music, and more

conspicuous than any object upon which the eye may fall. These external

impressions are admitted or shut out at will. I then know that

my thought is as real as my senses, that the images of thought

are as perceptible as those exterior to it and in every way as

objective and real. The thought-form has this advantage,

however, that it can be given a durable or a temporary existence,

and can be taken about with me without being liable to impost

as "excess luggage." In the matter of evidence in psychological

questions, therefore, sense perceptions are only second-rate

criteria and ought to be received with caution.

Almost all persons dream, and while dreaming they see and

hear, touch and taste, without questioning for a moment the

reality of these experiences. The dreaming person loses sight of

the fact that he is in a bedroom of a particular house, that he has

certain relations with others sleeping in the same house. He

loses sight of the fact that his name is, let us say, Henry, and

that he is famous for the manufacture of a particular brand of

soap or cheese. For him, and as long as it lasts, the dream is the

one reality. Now the question of the philosopher has always

been: which is the true dream, the sleeping dream or the waking

dream? The fact that the one is continuous of itself while the

other is not, and that we always fall into a new dream but

always wake to the same reality, has given a permanent value to

the waking or external life, and an equally fictitious one to the

interior or dreaming life. But what if the dream life became

more or less permanent to the exclusion of all other memories

and sensations? We should then get a case of insanity in which

hallucination would be symptomic. (The dream state is more or

less permanent with certain poetical temperaments, and if there

is any insanity attaching to it at all, it consists in the inability

to react.) Imagination, deep thought and grief are as much

anaesthetic as chloroform. But the closing of the external

channels of sensation is usually the signal for the opening of the

psychic, and from all the evidence it would seem that the

psychic sense is more extensive, acuter and in every way more

dependable than the physical. I never yet have met the man or

woman whose impaired eyesight required that he or she should

use glasses in order to see while asleep. That they do see is

common experience, and that they see farther, and therefore

better, with the psychic sense than with the physical has been

often proved. Emanuel Swedenborg saw a fire in Stockholm

when he was resident in England and gave evidence of it before

the vision was confirmed by news from Sweden. A lady of my

acquaintance saw and described a fire taking place at a country

seat about 150 miles away, the incident being true to the

minutest details, many of which were exceptional and in a

single instance tragic. The psychic sense is younger than the

physical, as the soul is younger than the body, and its faculty

continues unimpaired long after old age and disease have made

havoc of the earthly vestment. The soul is younger at a thousand

years than the body is at sixty. Let it be admitted upon evidence

that there are two sorts of sense perception, the physical and the

psychical, and that in some persons the latter is as much in

evidence as the former. We have to enquire then what relations

the crystal or other medium has to the development and exercise

of the clairvoyant faculty. We know comparatively little about

atomic structure in relation to nervous organism. The atomicity

of certain chemical bodies does not inform us as to why one

should be a deadly poison and another perfectly innocuous. We

regard different bodies as congeries of atoms, but it is a singular

fact that of two bodies containing exactly the same elements in

the same proportions the one is poisonous and the other

harmless. The only difference between them is the atomic


The atomic theory refers all bodies to one homogeneous basic

substance, which has been termed protyle (proto-hyle), from

which, by means of a process loosely defined as differentiation,

all the elements are derived. These elements are the result of

atomic arrangement. The atoms have various vibrations, the

extent of which is called the mean free path of vibration;

greatest in hydrogen and least in the densest element. All matter

is indestructible, but at the same time convertible, and these

facts, together with the absolute association of matter and force,

lead to the conclusion that every change of matter implies a

change of force. Matter, therefore, is ever living and active,

and there is no such thing as dead matter anywhere. The hylo-idealists

have therefore regarded all matter as but the ultimate expression

of spirit, and primarily of a spiritual origin.

The somewhat irksome phraseology of Baron Swedenborg has dulled

many minds to a sense of his great acumen and philosophical depth, but

it maybe convenient to summarize his scientific doctrine of

"Correspondences" in this place as it has an important bearing on the

subject in hand. He laid down the principle of the spiritual origin of

force and matter. Matter, he argued, was the ultimate expression of

spirit, as form was that of force. Spirit is to force what matter is to

form--its substratum. Hence for every spiritual force there is a

corresponding material form, and thus the material or natural world

corresponds at all points to the world of spirit, without being

identical. The apparent hiatus between one plane of existence and the

next he called a discrete degree, while the community between different

bodies on the same plane he called a continuous degree. Thus

there is community of sensation between bodies of the same

nature, community of feeling, community of thought, and

community of desire or aspiration, each on its own plane of

existence. But desire is translated into thought, thought into

feeling, and feeling into action. The spirit, soul (rational and

animal in its higher and lower aspects), and the body appear to

have been the principles of the human constitution according to

this authority. All spirits enjoy community, as all souls and all

bodies on their respective planes of existence; but between spirit

and soul, as between soul and body, there is a discrete degree.

In fine, mind is continuous of mind all through the universe, as

matter is continuous of matter; while mind and matter are

separated and need to be translated into terms of one another.

Taking our position from the scientific statement of the atomic

structure of bodies, atomic vibration and molecular arrangement,

we may now consider the action exerted by such bodies upon

the nervous organism of man.

The function of the brain, which may be regarded as the

bulbous root of a plant whose branches grow downwards, is

twofold: to affect, and to be affected. In its active and positive

condition it affects the whole of the vital and muscular

processes in the body, finding expression in vital action. In its

passive and negative state it is affected by impressions coming

to it in different ways through the sense organs, resulting

in nervous and mental action. These two functions are interdependent.

It is the latter or afferent function with which we are now concerned.

The range of our sense-perceptions puts us momentarily in relations

with the material world, or rather, with a certain portion of it. For

we by no means sense all that is sensible, and, as I have already

indicated, our sense impressions are often delusive. The gamut of our

senses is very limited, and also very imperfect both as to extent and

quality. Science is continually bringing new instruments into our

service, some to aid the senses, others to correct them. The

microscope, the microphone, the refracting lens are instances. It used

to be said with great certainty that you cannot see through a brick

wall, but by means of X-rays and a fluorescent screen it is now

possible to do so. I have seen my own heart beating as its image

was thrown on the screen by the Rontgen rays. Many insects,

birds and animals have keener perceptions in some respects than

man. Animalculae and microbic life, themselves microscopic,

have their own order of sense-organs related to a world of life

beyond our ken. These observations serve to emphasise the

great limitation of our senses, and also to enforce the fact that

Nature does not cease to exist where we cease to perceive her.

The recognition of this fact has been so thoroughly appreciated

by thoughtful people as to have opened up the question as to

what these human limitations may mean and to what degree

they may extend.

We know what they mean well enough: the history of human

development is the sequel to natural evolution, and this

development could never have had place apart from the hunger

of the mind and the consequent breaking down of sense limitations by

human invention. As to the extent of our limitations it has been

suggested that just as there are states of matter so fine as to be

beyond the range of vision, so there may be others so coarse as to be

below the sense of touch. We cannot, however, assert anything with

certainty, seeing that proof must always require that a thing must

be brought within our range of perception before we can admit it as

fact. The future has many more wonderful revelations in store for us,

no doubt. But there is really nothing more wonderful than human

faculty which discovers these things in Nature, things that have

always been in existence but until now have been outside our

range of perception. The ultra-solid world may exist.

The relations of our sense-organs to the various degrees of

matter, to solids, fluids, gases, atmosphere and ether, vary in

different individuals to such a wide extent as to create the

greatest diversity of normal faculty. The average wool-sorter

will outvie an artist in his perception of colour shades. An odour

that is distinctly recognizable by one person will not be

perceptible to others. In the matter of sound also the same

differences of perception will be noted. On a very still night one

can hear the sugar canes growing. Most people find the cry of a

bat to be beyond their range. The eye cannot discern intervals of

less than one-fiftieth of a second. Atmospheric vibration does

not become sound until a considerable frequency is attained.

Every movement we make displaces air but our sense of touch

does not inform us of it, but if we stand in a sunbeam the dust

particles will show that it is so. Our sense of feeling will not

register above certain degrees of heat or below certain degrees

of cold. Sensation, moreover, is not indefinitely sustained, as

anyone may learn who will follow the ticking of a watch for

five minutes continuously.

But quite apart from the sense and range of our perceptions, the

equality of a sense-impression is found to vary with different

persons, affecting them each in a different way. We find that

people have "tastes" in regard to form, colour, flavour, scent,

sound, fabric and texture. The experience is too general to need

illustration, but we may gather thence that, in relation to the

nervous system of man, every material body and state of matter

has a variable effect. These remarks will clear the ground for a

statement of my views upon the probable effect a crystal may

have upon a sensitive person.

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