ePub 版

dium, but it was not his fault. It was an accident, as he was careful to explain in his Presidential Address to the S.P.R., evidently with a whimsical perception of his own fastidiousness. Perhaps if he had risked the adventure of a few deliberate sittings he might have found the mediums less terrible than he feared; though it is undeniable that some individuals of the species would have bored him pretty badly.

Mr. Edward Clodd is another of these a priorists. In the Strand Magazine for July, 1917, he says that the inception of Spiritualism was in fraud, that its history is a record of the detection of "sorry rascals,” that their dupes are "impelled by the wish to believe,” and so forth. This imputation of prejudice comes queerly from one who is so obviously suffering from that complaint. He has made up his mind, and has made it up so hermetically that it is impermeable to evidence; or, rather, like certain membranes which exhibit the phenomenon of osmosis, it is permeable to one sort only—the sort which fits Mr. Clodd's wishes. And this sort is seized on without examination. Mr. Clodd repeats, for example, the old story that Mrs. Piper once "confessed” that she had had no communications from spirits. If Mr. Clodd means to imply that she confessed fraud, he is mistaken. She expressed the quite legitimate opinion that her phenomena might be due to telepathy from some incarnate person. The article in the New York Herald (October, 1901) makes no suggestion of fraud, and refers to Mrs. Piper in respectful terms. The use of the



3«The Question: If a man die, shall he live again ?" pp. 191-2, 297.

word "confession" by hostile critics is a skilful way of suggesting fraud, but the innuendo is baseless. Full details are to be found in the Journal of the S.P.R., vol. x., pp. 142-8-50. Moreover, the evidentiality of the case does not depend on Mrs. Piper's opinion. She was in trance at the sittings, and knew nothing of what happened except what she was told afterwards. Long and stringent investigations were carried out, as we have already seen, by Dr. Hodgson and others, and the evidence is there for anyone to read. If critics will meet it fairly, instead of making unworthy and baseless insinuations—which, indeed, are irrelevantthey would be more likely to help in the discovery of truth, for researchers are ready to give up their theory if a more reasonable one can be supplied.

Moreover, Mr. Clodd's language is regrettably emotional, betraying violent prejudice. He says that "the bias-ruled attitude of the inquirers is wholly uncritical; the power of suggestion paralyses them; they are prepared to see and hear and believe all they are told.” And “all is nauseating, frivolous, mischievous, spurious drivel” (Strand, page 54).

Compare this hysterical language with the quiet sentences of the official leaflet on the aims of those inquirers who make up the Society for Psychical Research, and the due sanity of the final note, all of which are quoted in extenso in the seventh chapter of Part I. (pp. 70-72).

Which shows a "bias-ruled attitude”—Mr. Clodd or the S.P.R.? Which uses frantic adjectives, and which a calm and judicial phrasing? The answer may safely be left to the reader. Finally, how much in


vestigation has Mr. Clodd done? He fortunately informs us himself. He attended one séance, about fifty years ago, but has forgotten most of what happened. (Letter to International Psychical Gazette, April, 1918.) Apparently he did not even take notes ! Thus equipped, then, he sets out to controvert the opinions of those who have investigated for thirty or forty years.

Again, in his book, "The Question: if a man die, shall he live again ?” he shows that Spiritualism has existed in all ages and places, and apparently makes the curious inference that therefore it must be untrue. Another anthropologist, Mr. Andrew Lang, himself no spiritualist, adduced precisely the same facts as suggesting that there is likely to be some truth in the similar modern phenomena. But Mr. Clodd, secure in the knowledge which his partly-forgotten sitting of fifty years ago gave him, knows well that these things cannot be, and that all believers in them are "biasruled and uncritical.” And though Mr. Clodd makes much use of the negative arguments and assumptions of Mr. Podmore, who as arch-sceptic to the S.P.R. served a useful purpose as brake, we must remember that even Mr. Podmore admitted the fact of telepathy, and in his last book went even farther, saying: “Taken as a whole, the correspondences are so numerous and precise, and the possibility of leakage to Mrs. Piper through normal channels so effectually excluded, that it is impossible to doubt that we have here proof of a supernormal agency of some kind—either telepathy by the trance intelligence from the sitter, or some kind of communication with the dead." i The spiritistic interpretation, it will be noted, is seriously stated as an alternative.

Another critic, of indubitable scientific eminence and commanding our respect as to his opinions on subjects which he has studied, is Sir E. Ray Lankester, who has informed us that "modern biologists (I am glad to be able to affirm) do not accept the hypothesis of 'telepathy' advocated by Sir Oliver Lodge, nor that of the intrusions of disembodied spirits pressed upon them by others of the same school.” 2 Whether Sir Ray Lankester can speak for "modern biologists” en bloc may be doubted, for one remembers a few who would probably object; but, even if he could, it does

A biologist has a right to an opinion on his own specialty and on other subjects also to the degree in which he has studied them, as Sir Oliver Lodge, though a physicist, has a right to an opinion on psychical questions because he has given a great deal of time to them over a period of more than thirty years. And this is what Sir Oliver said, in a famous utterance:

not matter.



1 “The Newer Spiritualism,” p. 222.

"The Kingdom of Man," p. 65. It is amusing to note that another Rationalist, Mr. Joseph McCabe, evidently feeling himself in a tight corner between the Scylla of telepathy and the Charybdis of Spiritualism, plumped for telepathy, saying that the evidence for it is "satisfactory.". (Literary Guide, March, 1916.) Later, however, being confronted with Sir Ray Lankester's opinion, Mr. McCabe distractedly made a half-recantation of his telepathy pronouncement, and now seems to be in a very uncomfortable position; for he apparently knows enough about the subject to be aware that nothing less than telepathy will explain. If he will only investigate for himself, patiently and with as little prejudice as possible, he will get attain salvation, as other Rationalists have done before him.

The evidence-nothing new or sensational, but cumulative and demanding prolonged serious study--to my mind goes to prove that discarnate intelligence, under certain conditions, may interact with us on the material side, thus indirectly coming within our scientific ken; and that gradually we may hope to attain some understanding of the nature of a larger, perhaps ethereal, existence, and of the conditions regulating intercourse across the chasm."

[ocr errors]

It is to be noted that the question is treated as a scientific one, to be settled according to the evidence. Belief or unbelief is to be decided by the facts.

But Sir E. Ray Lankester came along and said that he thought Sir Oliver Lodge's statement “singularly out of place at a meeting for the advancement of science.” 2 He did not say why. He did not proceed to prove that the subject was not amenable to scientific method; and, if it is, it is eminently suitable for discussion by the British Association for the Advancement of Science. Then why did the famous biologist show hostility? To some readers it seemed clear that the secret was emotional bias. Sir Ray Lankester does not like psychical research, and, of course, he has a perfect right to dislike it, and to attack it, as indeed he does very vigorously. In Bedrock, in 1912, there was a massed attack on it by Sir Ray Lankester, Sir Bryan Donkin, and Dr. Ivor Tuckett. Sir Oliver Lodge replied, and the present writer skirmished round in another article. What was chiefly apparent was that, whichever side was right, our side had done the most investigating. The others had read books, but

"Continuity,” pp. 90-1. British Association Address, 1913. Daily Telegraph, September 30, 1913.


« 上一頁繼續 »