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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 57.djvu/466

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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

hypothesis in preference to any other. Spiritualists of this intellectual temper can, however, form but a small portion of those who are enrolled under its creed. If one may judge by the tone and contents of current spiritualistic literature, the rank and file to which Spiritualism appeals present an unintellectual occult company, credulously accepting what they wish to believe, utterly regardless of the intrinsic significance of evidence or hypothesis, vibrating from one extreme or absurdity to another, and blindly following a blinder or more fanatic leader or a self-interested charlatan. While for the most extravagant and unreasonable expressions of Spiritualism one would probably turn to the literature of a few decades ago, yet the symptoms presented by the Spiritualism of to-day are unmistakably of the same character, and form a complex as characteristic as the symptom-complex of hysteria or epilepsy, and which, faute de mieux, may be termed occult. It is a type of occultism of a particularly pernicious character because of its power to lead a parasitic life upon the established growths of religious beliefs and interests, and at the same time to administer to the needs of an unfortunate but widely prevalent passion for special signs and omens and the interpretation of personal experiences. It is a weak though comprehensible nature that becomes bewildered in the presence of a few experiences that seem homeless among the generous provisions of modern science, and runs off panic-stricken to find shelter in a system that satisfies a narrow personal craving at the sacrifice of broadly established principles, nurtured and grown strong in the hardy and beneficent atmosphere of science. It is a weaker and an ignorant nature that is attracted to the cruder forms of such beliefs, be it by the impulsive yielding to emotional susceptibility, by the contagion of an unfortunate mental environment, or by the absence of the steadying power of religious faith or of logical vigor or of confidence in the knowledge of others. Spiritualism finds converts in both camps and assembles them under the flag of the occult.[1]


  1. To prevent misunderstanding it is well to repeat that I am speaking of the general average of thorough-going spiritualists. The fact that a few mediums have engaged the attention of scientifically minded investigators has no bearing on the motives which lead most persons to make a professional call on a medium, or to join a circle. The further fact that these investigators have at times found themselves baffled by the medium's performances, and that a few of them have announced their readiness to accept the spiritualistic hypothesis is of importance in some aspects, but does not determine the general trend of the spiritualistic movement in the direction in which it Is considered in the present discussion. It may also prevent misunderstanding of other parts of my presentation to continue this footnote by adding that I desire to distinguish sharply between the occult and what has unwisely been termed Psychical Research—unwisely because such research is either truly psychological and requires no differentiation from other allied and legitimate research, or it is something other than psychological which is inaptly expressed by calling it 'psychical.'I admit and emphasize that the majority of such research is the result of a scientific motive and Is far removed from the occult. I therefore shall say nothing of Psychical Research and regret that it is necessary even to deny its possible inclusion in the occult. Such inclusion is. however, suggested by much that is talked of