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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 57.djvu/467

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THE MODERN OCCULT.

The wane in the popularity of Spiritualism may be due in part to frequent exposures, in part to the passing of the occult interest to pastures new, and in part to other and less accessible causes. Such interest may again become dominant by the success or innovations of some original medium or by the appearance of some unforeseen circumstances; at present there is a disposition to take up 'spiritual healing' and 'spiritual readings of the future' rather than mere assurances from the dead, and thus to emulate the practical success of more recently established rivals. The history of Spiritualism, by its importance and its extravagance of doctrine and practice, forms an essential and an instructive chapter in the history of belief; and there is no difficulty in tracing the imprints of its footsteps on the sands of the occult.

The impress of ancient and mediƦval lore upon latter-day occultism is conspicuous in the survivals of Alchemy and Astrology. Phrenology represents a more recent pseudo-science, but one sufficiently obsolete to be considered under the same head, as may also Palmistry, which has relations both to an ancient form of divination and to a more modern development after the manner of Physiognomy. The common characteristic of these is their devotion to a practical end. Alchemy occupies a somewhat distinct position. The original alchemists sought the secret of converting the baser metals into gold, in itself a sufficiently alluring and human occupation. There is no reason why such a problem should assume an occult aspect, except the sufficient one that ordinary procedures have not proved capable to effect the desired end. It is a proverbial fault of ambitious inexperience to attack valiantly large problems with endless confidence and sweeping aspiration. It is well enough in shaping your ideas to hitch your wagon to a star; yet the temporary utility of horses need not be overlooked; but shooting arrows at the stars is apt to prove an idle pastime. If we are willing to forget for the moment that the same development of logic and experiment that makes possible the mental and material equipment of


    and written under the name of Psychic Research, and there can be no doubt that the interest of many members of Psychic Research Societies and of readers of their publications, is essentially of an occult nature. Whatever in these publications seems to favor mystery and to substantiate supernormal powers is readily absorbed, and its bearings fancifully interpreted and exaggerated; the more critical and successfully explanatory papers meet with a less extended and less sensational reception. Unless most wisely directed, Psychic Research is likely, by not letting the right hand know what the left hand is doing, to foster the undesirable propensities of human nature as rapidly as it antagonizes them. Like indiscriminate alms-giving it has the possibilities of affording relief and of making paupers at the same time. While I regard the acceptance of telepathy as an established phenomenon, as absolutely unwarranted and most unfortunate, and while I feel a keen personal regret that men whose ability and opinions I estimate highly have announced their belief in a spiritualistic explanation of their personal experiences with a particular medium, yet my personal regret and my logical disapproval of these conclusions have obviously no bearing upon the general questions under discussion. The scientific investigation of the same phenomena which have formed the subject matter of occult beliefs, is radically different in motive, method and result from the truly occult.