Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 13.djvu/192

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ual or by attendant circumstances, and these subjective sensations are to him genuine, objective realities. This state of trance is not infrequent, but is most common and constantly occurring; it is not confined to any one class or sex, but all human beings are subject to it; no degree of intelligence or of culture suffices to insure exemption; it comes often when it is least looked for, and its easiest victims are of all persons most unsuspicious and ignorant of its nature. Trance is entirely a subjective state, external causes acting as excitant only, and, of all the numberless exciting causes none are more influential in the average individual than the witnessing of strange or exceptional events; and as the testimony of those who are even partially entranced in regard to what they have seen, or heard, or experienced, or done, is of no value, and as under the excitement of the emotions produced by the real or supposed occurrences of unusual or marvelous events large numbers of witnesses are liable to be simultaneously and similarly entranced, therefore human testimony becomes practically of the least value in just those crises and situations where evidence both for the purposes of science and law is most needed. The influence of psychical contagion, or the excitation of emotions through involuntary imitation, one person carrying the excitement to another, and so on, through vast audiences, is of special import in relation to human testimony: excitement spreads through a multitude in arithmetical ratio, proportioned to the numbers; a crowd is a multiplier of force, and through the stimulus of sight and sound generates a storm of emotion; out of an insignificant cause each individual in his turn unconsciously adding to the original excitement, just as in the Holtz or Gramme electrical machines each new revolution adds to the force obtained by the first. A large audience may be agitated with laughter or melted into abundant tears by a story which, when told to an individual, causes perhaps but a feeble smile or mildly suffused eyes. Average testimony, therefore, in regard to unprecedented, or marvelous, or wondrous phenomena, as the manifestation of supposed new forces, or strange symptoms of disease, or the raising of the dead, or any unusual appearances in Nature, on the earth, in the air, in the sky—such as would be likely to excite the emotions of awe, of wonder, of reverence, or of fear, in the presence of large assemblages—can have no scientific value; a whole army may be entranced, and may see and hear what is dreaded or expected.

Under conditions that strongly excite the emotions, no force of numbers and no concurrence of testimony can give any value to testimony; a million ciphers are worth no more than a single cipher. The greater the number of eye-witnesses, the greater their liability to be deceived through the influence of mental contagion.[1]

But, aside from trance and allied states—which constitute the culmination of the involuntary life—the value of human testimony is im-

  1. For more detailed analyses of this subject, the reader is referred to my monograph on the "Scientific Basis of Delusions."