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they did not seem to have experimented much. If they had they did not say so.
What I wish to emphasise is that, whether we are right or wrong in our conclusions—I venture to speak for all psychical investigators-psychical research is absolutely and essentially scientific. It observes, records, tabulates, and infers. It tries to get at the true facts, and then builds its hypotheses thereon, instead of deciding beforehand, as some critics do, swayed by prejudice, that this or that cannot happen, and refusing to "waste time"-as one of them said-over examination of what they have already decided against. This latter course is magnificent, but it is not science. It is mysticism, reliance on the “Inner Light.” Psychical research will have none of this. It wants objective facts. Its method is precisely that of its materialistic opponents, but they do not push inquiry far enough.
Sir Ray Lankester demands "experimental” verification, and the demand is legitimate when fulfilment is possible. But there are many things, in other sciences as well as in psychical research, which cannot be produced to order; e.g. volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, the fall of meteorites, thunderstorms, even rain and the ordinary variations of temperature and the like. We can only observe these phenomena as they occur; but we can nevertheless observe them scientifically when they do occur. So with psychical phenomena. We observe, record, classify, and infer. In all these processes we are liable to human error, as in all other investigations. But we are as careful as possible, and if we make mistakes we are glad to have them pointed out. Hitherto our results have met with no victorious criticism. They stand unshaken, and we are justified in concluding, provisionally at least, that we have achieved some measure of true scientific advance.
*The Shah of Persia, visiting Greenwich Observatory, is said to have ordered an eclipse. The Astronomer Royal was unable to oblige, and the Shah suggested his decapitation.
ROMAN CATHOLIC AND MYSTICAL OBJECTIONS
HE materialists, as we have seen—also some
philosophers—deny that the phenomena happen as described. They prejudge the question. Because no such phenomena have forced themselves on their attention, they disbelieve, and we understand and can partly excuse their disbelief; but they go wrong when they deny the experience of others, concerning which they ought to keep an open mind. As Sir Walter Scott neatly says in his introduction to "The Fair Maid of Perth,” there is a vulgar incredulity as well as a vulgar credulity, and many a sceptic finds it "easier to doubt than to examine”; easier still, apparently, to deny.
The Roman Catholic, on the other hand, agrees that the things happen, but says that they are the work, not of human spirits, but of devils. Lord Alfred Douglas says in a letter to the Sunday Times of September 16th, 1917:
As a Catholic I am forbidden to take part in a spiritual séance under pain of mortal sin, nor have I the least temptation to do so. But before I became a Catholic I occasionally dabbled in Spiritualism, and my own experiences were quite enough to convince me that the phenomena are sometimes perfectly genuine, and perfectly unaccountable except on a supernatural basis. The Catholic Church allows that it is perfectly possible to
obtain supernatural results at spiritualistic séances. It does not deny the phenomena. But it utterly denies that the "spirits” which give communications are the souls of departed mortals. The phenomena of Spiritualism are, the Church teaches, produced by devils and evil spirits. Their object is
, to deceive and betray the human race. Continual indulgence in Spiritualism leads to madness, folly, and despair, and the loss of real faith. ... The Catholic Truth Society publishes various penny pamphlets, any one of which is quite enough to settle the question for "men of good will,” because it is based on the wisdom of the ages to which we are all the heirs if we care to take up our inheritance.
Except for the rather sweeping implication that no man of goodwill can remain unconverted by one of the penny pamphlets mentioned, this is a temperate and reasonable statement. The Church has a long history behind it and is the repository of much gathered and conserved wisdom. For many people its prohibition of spiritualistic practices is undoubtedly wise. In past times it may have been wise for all.
But here a question arises. Is a prohibition to hold good for ever, in spite of changed conditions? In pre-scientific days, when there was no body of organised knowledge and no conception of modern method, it is probable that any giving of the rein to psychical investigation of an inevitably crude sort would have retarded the arrival of science, putting human thought on a wrong tack-wrong for those times. But things are very different now. May it not be that what was wrong then may be right now; not for everyone but for increasing numbers ? Children are rightly forbidden to use matches or experiment with nitric acid; but adults use both with advantage.
And we must remember that though there is such a thing as a wise conservatism, this doctrine of reliance on the wisdom of the past, if too unqualifiedly accepted, would result in universal stagnation. It could have been urged, and no doubt was urged, against Christianity when Christianity was a new thing, both by orthodox Jews and by educated pagans of the Julian type. “Let us abide,” they might say, "by the Law and the Prophets, by the wisdom of Abraham our father, by the oracles and gods of centuries of Pythian and other worship.” The case of the Jew against Christianity would seem as strong as the case of Rome against Protestantism or against Spiritualism. But in each case the conservative has been wrong; wrong, that is, in thinking he possessed absolute truth and in trying to stamp out the innovation; right, more or less, in acting as a break to extravagance, in criticising and cautioning. Progress is achieved by action and reaction. Motion is balanced by attraction, and the right orbit is maintained: we need not blame Roman orthodoxy or any other orthodoxy for making its protest, but neither must we allow more than a protest; we must tolerate no Prussian suppression by force of those who think they see a better truth or a further revelation of
kind. The history of science shows how almost every advance in knowledge has seemed to encroach—and often has encroached on the province of the priest. But we now see that each discovery widened our conception of the Universe and therefore enlarged our idea of its Creator. The heavens declare the glory of God much more emphatically than they did when men held the