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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/742

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

were satisfactorily explained as due to the rapid partial dislocation and resetting of the knee-joint, and perhaps other joints, the raps failing to occur when the Fox sisters were placed in a position in which the leverage necessary for this action was denied them and being perfectly repeated, at will, by a lady gifted with the same peculiarity. To-day spiritualists count their adherents by millions. In 1867 there were estimated to be three millions in America. They publish about one hundred journals, hailing from all parts of the world (twenty-six of them appear in America), and the manifestations have increased in number and variety. Spirit-forms are seen and hold converse; they write on slates in mysterious ways, they move tables, play musical instruments, send flowers and messages, tie knots in an endless cord, and so on; all, however, only in the presence of "mediums."

It would seem self-evident that so momentous a conclusion should not be accepted without the most rigid scrutiny; that only after every attempt to explain the phenomena by laws already understood had failed, would recourse be had to a supernatural origin, and only when the truth of such a theory had been repeatedly verified by a variety of evidence would it be definitely accepted. The history of psychic epidemics shows too clearly that any such logical procedure is made impossible by the white heat of the emotional interest with which such movements always spread. There is always a large class of people yearning for a possession that shall be mysterious and unshared by the common herd, anxious to embrace any such strange and novel doctrines as spiritualism advanced, simply because of their strangeness and novelty. Such persons find no satisfaction in investigating, but only in believing. With such the movement began; but, as it spread, it found its way into higher circles, securing the adherence of many men and women of decided culture and intellectual acumen, and even enrolling in its cause a few eminent representatives of the world of learning. The spiritualists grew bold and defied investigation; investigations were frequently made, and resulted, according to the ability, impartiality, and technical fitness of the investigators, about as frequently in exposure as in conversion. The conversions were always trumpeted far and wide, while the mediums convicted of fraudulent procedure quietly and successfully continued their career. A prominent spiritualist openly announces that Slade (perhaps the most famous living medium) "now often cheats with an almost infantile audacity and naïveté, while at the same or the next séance with the same investigators," genuine spiritualistic phenomena occur. If this is the moral atmosphere of spiritualism, one can readily understand the opinion of another disciple, that the true spirit in which to approach its study is "an entire willingness to be deceived."