Imatges de pÓgina
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plays itself to the spectators as an embodied spirit.' Precluded from any direct interference with the performance, a sceptic among the company slyly puts some ink on his fingers, and, whilst this is still wet, grasps the 'spirit-hand,' which he finds very like a mortal one. The spirit' withdraws behind the curtains, after a short interval the lights are raised, and the medium' returns to the company in propria personâ. The sceptic then points out inkstains on one of the 'medium's' hands, and tells what he has done.

These are the facts of the case.- Now, the common-sense' interpretation of these facts is, that the 'medium'is a cheat, and the 'embodied spirit'a vulgar ghost personated by him; and until adequate proof shall have been given to the contrary, I maintain that we are perfectly justified in holding to this interpretation, confirmed as it is by the exposure of the trick in every instance in which adequate means have been taken for its detection.

But the explanation of his inked fingers given by the 'medium' is, that the impress made on the hand of the embodied spirit' has been transferred 'according to a well-known law of Spiritualism' to his own; and this assumption is regarded as more probable, by such as have accepted the system, than that their pet 'medium' is a cheat, and their belief in him a delusion!

That such an assumption should not only gain


the acceptance of minds otherwise rational, but should be stoutly upheld by them with unquestioning faith, seems to me a striking exemplification of the strength of the hold which a 'dominant idea' may gain, when once the protective safeguard of 'common sense' has been weakly abandoned. And I would further deduce from it the educational importance of that early Scientific training, of which a disciplined and trustworthy judgment on such subjects is one of the most valuable resultants. For that training—which essentially consists in the formation of habits of accurate observation, and of correct reasoning upon the facts so learned-pervades the whole mind, and shapes its general forms of thought in a degree which is rarely (if ever) equalled by the direction of its powers at a later period of life to the culture of some limited field of scientific investigation. Any such specialization leaves the wide domain of thought which lies outside, untouched by scientific influences; and thus it happens that men who achieve high distinction in particular lines of scientific enquiry, may not only have no special competence for the pursuit of an enquiry of a totally different kind, but may be absolutely disqualified, by preformed tendencies, for its thorough and impartial prosecution. A remarkable case of this kind, incidentally noticed in the following pages (pp. 7 and 69), I have elsewhere more fully discussed.

1 The Radiometer and its Lessons,' in the Nineteenth Century for March 1877.

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