The Scientific Basis of Spiritualism. By Epes Sargent. Boston: Colby & Rich. Pp. 372. Price, $1.50.
This work, copyrighted in 1880, has but just appeared, but since its publication its versatile author has passed away. Mr. Sargent was born in 1812, studied in Harvard College, and early became an editor in Boston. He pursued this vocation awhile in New York, and then again resumed it in Boston. He edited various popular "Speakers" "Readers," and rhetorical books for the schools, and wrote many plays both comical and tragical. He also wrote "Life of Henry Clay," a volume of poems, an abolition book, and "Arctic Adventures." That he should have dipped into spiritualism was but natural with his love of diversified literary occupation; and so, a dozen years ago, he printed "Planchette, or the Despair of Science," and closed his career with the production of the volume now before us.
As was to be expected, the work is one of considerable literary merit, well digested, attractively written, and made lively by a pervading spirit of criticism. If we may be allowed the paradoxical suggestion, Mr. Sargent goes the "whole hog" in spiritualism. He believes it all, sticks at nothing, and slashes right and left at everybody who objects to it. He claims to be on the winning side, and says that in the last forty years spiritualism has gained twenty million adherents. One would think that with this he might "rest and be thankful," but it does not satisfy him. It seems that, among these twenty million believers, the scientific men generally are not to be found, and it is this fact which caused Mr. Sargent to write his book. He thinks the twenty million people of all sorts, who need not be further characterized, are right, and that the scientific men—the sole class whose business it is to search out the truths of nature—are wrong; and it is his object to show that spiritualism has just as much a valid scientific foundation as any of the recognized and established branches of science. We shall not undertake to answer his arguments, if such they may be called, but will only observe, as we have repeatedly done before in this connection, that the most fundamental of all distinctions is confused throughout the work. The supernatural, or that which by its very term is above and beyond nature, is mixed up and confounded with nature itself, and spiritualism is declared to be "a purely natural fact." Yet, if this doctrine had twenty times twenty million adherents, science could not accept it, because it takes for its object of investigation the natural as opposed to the supernatural. In so far as alleged "spiritualism" involves human phenomena, it is of course within the purview of science, and scientific men will be certain to take these phenomena up in their own way and in their own time. But they must be allowed to mark out their own work, and the problem as presented by the twenty million does not come in a shape suitable to be dealt with by rigorous scientific methods. The men of science begin by doubting, and cultivating this state of mind as a virtue; they continue to doubt until evidence extorts acquiescence, while assent even then goes no further than to things regarded as actually proved; the "twenty million," on the contrary, begin by believing, hold this state of mind to be a virtue, and go on believing without much perplexing themselves over questions of evidence. To them the phrase "the scientific basis of the super-scientific" would involve no contradiction.
Progress and Poverty; an Inquiry into the Cause of Industrial Depressions and of Increase of Want with Increase of Wealth: The Remedy. By Henry George. New York: D. Appleton & Co. Pp. 512. Cheap edition, with a new preface, in paper cover. Price, 75 cents.
We are glad to announce the appearance of a cheap popular edition of this suggestive book, by which it will be made accessible