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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 57.djvu/464

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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

The modern Theosophist seeks to appeal to men and women of philosophical inclinations, for whom an element of mysticism has its charm, and who are intellectually at unrest with the conceptions underlying modern science and modern life. Such persons are quite likely to be well-educated, refined and sincere. We may believe them intellectually misguided; we may recognize the fraud to which their leader resorted to glorify her creed, but we must equally recognize the absence of many pernicious tendencies in their teachings which characterize other and more practical occult movements.

Spiritualism, another member of the modern occult family, presents a combination of features rather difficult to portray; but its public career of half a century has probably rendered its tenets and practices fairly familiar. For, like other movements, it presents both doctrines and manifestations, and, like other movements, it achieved its popularity through its manifestations and emphasized the doctrines to maintain the interest and solidarity of its numerous converts. Deliberate fraud has been repeatedly demonstrated in a large number of alleged 'spiritualistic' manifestations; in many more the very nature of the phenomena and of the conditions under which they appear is so strongly suggestive of trickery as to render any other hypothesis of their origin improbable and unnecessary. Unconscious deception, exaggerated and distorted reports, defective and misleading observation have been demonstrated to be most potent reagents, whereby alleged miracles are made to throw off their mystifying envelopings and to leave a simple deposit of intelligible and often commonplace fact. That the methods of this or that medium have not been brought within the range of such explanation may be admitted, but the admission carries with it no bias in favor of the spiritualistic hypothesis. It may be urged, however, that where there is much smoke there is apt to be some fire; yet there is little prospect of discovering the nature of the fire until the smoke has been completely cleared away. Perhaps it has been snatched from heaven by a materialized Prometheus; perhaps it may prove to be the trick of a ridiculus mus gnawing at a match. However, the main point to be insisted upon with regard to such manifestations is that their interpretation and their explanation demand technical knowledge and training, or at least special adaptability to such pursuits. "The problem cannot be solved and settled by amateurs, nor by 'common sense'

Delivers brawling judgments all day long,
On all things unashamed."

Spiritualism represents a systematization of popular beliefs and superstitions, modified by echoes of religious and philosophical doctrines; and is thus not wholly occult. Its main purpose was to establish the reality of communication departed spirits; the means which at first spontaneously presented themselves and later were devised for this