Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 57.djvu/460

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scientists of America to disprove them; one Symmes regarded the earth as hollow and habitable within, with openings at the poles which he offered to explore for the consideration of the "patronage of this and the new worlds"; while Symmes, Jr., explains how the interior is lighted, and that it probably forms the home of the lost tribes of Israel; and one Teed announces on equally conclusive evidence that the earth is a "stationary concave cell. . . with people, Sun, Moon, Planets and Stars on the inside," the whole constituting an "alchemico-organic structure, a Gigantic Electro-Magnetic Battery." If we were to pass from opinions regarding the shape of the earth to the many other and complex problems that appeal to human interests, it would be equally easy to collect 'ideas' comparable to these in value, evidence and eccentricity. With the conspicuously pathological outgrowth of brain-functioning—although its representatives in the literature of my topic are neither few nor far between—I shall not specifically deal; and yet the general abuse of logic, the helpless flounderings in the mire of delusive analogy, the baseless assumptions, which characterize insane or 'crank' productions, are readily found in modern occult literature.

The occult consists of a mixed aggregate of movements and doctrines, which may be the expressions of kindred interests and dispositions but present no essential community of content. Such members of this cluster of beliefs as in our day and generation have attained a considerable adherence or still retain it from former generations constitute the modern occult. The prominent characteristic of the occult is its marked divergence in trend and belief from the recognized standards and achievements of human thought. This divergence is one of attitude and logic and general perspective. It is a divergence of intellectual temperament that distorts the normal reactions to science and evidence and to the general significance and values of the factors of our complicated natures and our equally complicated environment. At least it is this in extreme and pronounced forms; and shades from it through an irregular variety of tints to a vague and often unconscious susceptibility for the unusual and eccentric, combined with an instability of conviction regarding established beliefs that is more often the expression of the weakness of ignorance than of the courage of independence. Occult doctrines are also likely to involve and to proceed upon mysticism and superstition; and their theme centers about such problems as the nature of mental action, the conception of life and death, the effect of cosmic conditions upon human events and endowment, the delineation of character, the nature and treatment of disease, or indeed about any of the larger or smaller realms of knowledge that combine with a strong human and possibly a practical interest, a considerable complexity of basal principles and general relations.

In surveying the more notable instances of the modern occult, it is