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in spite of the fact that I regarded Sir William Crookes as a sort of Pope in scientific matters—Pope by merit instead of by election—in consequence of my study of
chemistry and my admiration for his research work in that department. If I could have believed the narratives on any man's word it would have been on the word of Sir William Crookes. Feeling that belief was not produced by his guarantee, I was sure that I should never attain it on the word of any other writer. I was chiefly conscious of a feeling of surprise and staggeredness. I felt bound to admit that the phenomena could not now be left out of court or treated as a priori unreal. If Sir William Crookes said that such things were true, surely there must be something in it. Yet the alleged physical phenomena were so utterly out of touch with my other ideas, so incapable of being fitted into any place in my mental fabric, that I was not able to believe, though far from saying that I disbelieved. The content of my belief was not enlarged; my attitude-already respectful and attentive
-was not much changed; the net result was a weakening of the negative presumptions which gradually arise from our experience of nature in its normal manifestations, and a bringing of the mind nearer to that ideally judicial state in which evidence is weighed absolutely without prejudice. I need not trace out the further steps—by experience and reading of my "agnostic's progress” towards belief; for present purposes these illustrations suffice.
So, we must not expect to be believed, when we tell a story of supernormal happenings, unless we know that our hearer's mind has already reached a certain stage. If he is new to the subject, or has not yet got his negative presumptions sufficiently weakened by the bombardment of evidence from various sides, he simply cannot believe us. With the best will in the world he cannot accept our story. He may be an old and dear friend; may be as sure of our veracity as of his own; may have absolute trust in our acumen; yet he cannot believe. The mind in which these new thoughts are to be planted is occupied by enemy forces which repulse the attempted entry. There is a story of a judge, in a medium-prosecution, who said that the evidence for the genuineness of the phenomena was overwhelming, but that they were impossible, and he must therefore decide against the evidence. The story probably is not true of any judge, but it is something like what many good people do. Our mental fabric has grown into a coherent and symmetrical whole, and we can accept only such new facts as will attach themselves to related facts already in our minds—such new facts as find their affinities already existent in us, and ready to amalgamate with new truth, as an unsaturated solution dissolves more salt, or as an unsatiated carbon atom links itself with other atoms to force a more complex molecule. A mind which does not possess these affinities or link-facts will not be able to believe narratives of supernormal occurrences, however well supported by evidence they may be; and we must not blame it for its inability. Our part is to prepare it for the reception of new truth, by gently breaking down its negative presumptions; by pointing out that with all our boasted advance of knowledge the sum-total of the Possible is infinitely greater than the small specimens of the Actual which orthodox science has thus far succeeded in pigeon-holing and labelling; and by presenting the sort of psychical facts that are most easily linked up with the fact-furniture already possessed.