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Title: Fact and Fable in Psychology
Author: Jastrow, Joseph
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Fact and Fable in Psychology" ***

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                  By Joseph Jastrow

        THE SUBCONSCIOUS. Large crown 8vo, $2.50,
        _net_. Postage 16 cents.

        crown 8vo, gilt top, $2.00.

                HOUGHTON, MIFFLIN & CO.
                  BOSTON AND NEW YORK

                    FACT AND FABLE

                  BY JOSEPH JASTROW


                 BOSTON AND NEW YORK
            The Riverside Press, Cambridge

                 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

                   TO MY HELPMATE


A group of problems that appears conspicuously in the present volume,
and in so far contributes to the fitness of its title, has obtained
a considerable interest on the part of the public at large. Such
interest seems prone to take its clue from the activity of those
who herald startling revelations on the basis of unusual psychic
experiences, and who give promise of disclosing other worlds than
the one with which common sense and common sensation acquaint us,
rather than from the cautious and consistent results of serious and
professional students in study or in laboratory. The fascination of
the unusual over the popular mind is familiar and intelligible, and
seems in no direction more pronounced than in matters psychological.
So long as this interest is properly subordinated to a comprehensive
and illuminating general view of the phenomena in question, it is
not likely to be harmful and may prove to be helpful. But when the
conception of the nature of our mental endowment and the interest in
the understanding thereof are derived from the unusual, the abnormal,
and the obscure, instead of from the normal, law-abiding observations
systematized and illuminated by long and successful research,
there is danger that the interest will become unwholesome and the
conception misleading. It is quite natural that the plain man should
be interested in the experiences of the world of mind which form an
intrinsic part of his common humanity; and it is equally natural that
he should find attraction in less commonplace and seemingly anomalous
mental phenomena. If thunderstorms were as rare as total eclipses of
the sun, it is likely that they would attract equal attention, be
looked upon as terrifying and portentous by superstitious humanity,
and be invested by tradition with mysterious significance, under
the influence of the interest in the unusual. The existence of this
interest is itself a distinctive trait meriting a psychological
interpretation, and one not likely to be overlooked. Its direction
and regulation become the care of the several departments of science
that deal with the respective subject-matters involved. And yet
in a special way, as expressions of the popular _esprit_, such
interests claim the psychologist's attention as they do not claim the
attention of representatives of other sciences. It may happen that
the astronomer finds an interest in noting popular conceptions in
regard to comets and life on other planets and beliefs about meteors
and eclipses, but such interest forms no essential part of his
occupation. He knows very well that the intelligent layman who wishes
to be informed on astronomical matters will turn with confidence
and respect to the accounts of the solar system, which represent
the result of generations of scientific research under the guidance
of exceptional ability and devotion. The psychologist is in a less
fortunate position. His topic has neither that exclusive definiteness
of content nor that position of hereditary prestige nor the general
acknowledgment of its essentially technical character, which belong
to astronomy. All men have their own psychological experiences and
notions about mental phenomena, but opinions concerning astronomy are
admitted to belong to those who have specially fitted themselves for
such pursuits.

There is thus a natural reason why it should be particularly
difficult in psychology to bring about a wholesome and right-minded
and helpful interest on the part of the layman,--a difficulty further
aggravated by the encouragement of well-meaning but logically
defective publications claiming to substantiate by quasi-scientific
methods the popular belief in the peculiar personal and mysterious
significance of events. In the face of this situation, the
professional psychologist cannot but take heed of the dangers which
imperil the true appreciation of his labors and his purpose, on the
part of the sympathetic layman. It is a matter of serious concern
that the methods of genuine psychological study, that the conditions
of advance in psychology, that the scope and nature of its problems
should be properly understood. It is matter of importance that the
dominant interest in psychology should centre about the normal use
and development of functions with respect to which psychology bears
a significant message for the regulation of life. The restoration
of a more desirable and progressive point of view requires some
examination of the false and misleading conceptions and alleged data,
which threaten to divert the sound and progressive interest from
its proper channels. It is not to be expected, when many who engage
public attention speak in favor of the importance of the unknown and
the mystic in psychology, when the twilight phenomena of mental life
are dwelt upon--and professionally as well as by amateurs--to the
neglect of the luminous daylight actualities, that the layman will
always correctly distinguish between what is authentically scientific
and in accordance with the advancing ideals of psychology, and what
is but the embodiment of unfortunate traditions, or the misguided
effort of the dilettante, or the perverse fallacy of the prepossessed
mystic. Fact and fable in psychology can only be separated by the
logical sifting of evidence, by the exercise of the prerogative of a
scientific point of view substantiated and fortified by the lessons
embodied in the history of rational opinion. The cause of truth and
the overthrow of error must sometimes be fought in drawn battle
and with the clash of arms, but are more frequently served by the
inauguration of an adherence to one side and the consequent desertion
of the other. Both procedures may be made necessary by the current
status of psychological discussion.

The present collection of essays is offered as a contribution
towards the realization of a sounder interest in and a more intimate
appreciation of certain problems upon which psychology has an
authoritative charge to make to the public jury. These essays take
their stand distinctively upon one side of certain issues, and as
determinately as the situation seems to warrant, antagonize contrary
positions; they aim to oppose certain tendencies and to support
others; to show that the sound and profitable interest in mental life
is in the usual and normal, and that the resolute pursuit of this
interest necessarily results in bringing the apparently irregular
phenomena of the mental world within the field of illumination of
the more familiar and the law-abiding. They further aim to illustrate
that misconceptions in psychology, as in other realms, are as often
the result of bad logic as of defective observation, and that both
are apt to be called into being by inherent mental prepossessions.
Some of the essays are more especially occupied with an analysis
of the defective logic which lends plausibility to and induces
credence in certain beliefs; others bring forward contributions to
an understanding of phenomena about which misconception is likely to
arise; still others are presented as psychological investigations
which, it is believed, command a somewhat general interest. The
prominence of the discussion of unfortunate and misleading tendencies
in psychological opinion should not be allowed to obscure the
more intrinsically important problems which in the main are of a
different, though possibly not of an unrelated character. I should be
defeating one of the purposes of these essays if, by the discussion
of mooted positions, I conveyed the notion that the problems thus
presented were naturally the fundamental ones about which advance
in psychology may be most promisingly centred. I deeply regret
that the dispossession of fable requires more resolute and more
elaborate exposition than the unfoldment of fact; but such is part
of the condition confronting the critical student of psychological
opinion. I must depend upon the reader to make due allowances for
this foreshortening of a portion of the composition, and so to bring
away a truer impression of the whole than the apparent perspective

It would not be proper to claim for this budget of psychological
studies a pre-arranged unity of design or a serial unfoldment of
argument. They represent the unity of interest of a worker in a
special field, who has his favorite excursions and vistas, who at
times ventures away from the beaten paths and as frequently returns
along those already traversed, but with varying purposes, and
reaches the outlook from a different approach. There seems enough of
singleness of purpose in the several presentations to warrant their
inclusion in a single volume with a common name. There is enough
also to make it pertinent to explain that the occasional repetitions
of the same line of thought seemed less objectionable than frequent
reference from one essay to another.

All of the essays have been previously printed in the pages of
various scientific and popular magazines; and I have accordingly
to acknowledge the courtesy of the several publishers, which makes
possible their appearance in their present form. The essays have,
however, been subjected to a critical revision, in the hope of
increasing their acceptability in regard to form and material, and of
giving them a setting appropriate to the interests of the present-day
readers of psychological literature. Both in the selection of the
essays from a larger group of published studies, and in their
arrangement and elaboration, I have attempted to bear in mind the
several current interests in questions of this type, and to direct
these interests formatively along lines which seem to me fertile in
promise and sterling in value. In the recasting thus made necessary
it has come about (markedly in two cases, The Problems of Psychical
Research and The Logic of Mental Telegraphy) that some of the essays
have been entirely rewritten and bear only a generic resemblance to
their former appearance.

The several acknowledgments to be recorded are as follows: To the
"Popular Science Monthly," for permission to reprint The Psychology
of Deception (December, 1888), The Psychology of Spiritualism (April,
1889), A Study of Involuntary Movements (April and September, 1892),
The Mind's Eye (January, 1899), The Modern Occult (September,
1900); to the "New Princeton Review," for The Dreams of the Blind
(January, 1888); to "Harper's Monthly Magazine," for The Problems of
Psychical Research (June, 1889); to "Scribner's Magazine," for The
Logic of Mental Telegraphy (October, 1895); to the "Cosmopolitan,"
for Hypnotism and its Antecedents (February, 1896). The Natural
History of Analogy was delivered as a vice-presidential address
before the Section of Anthropology of the American Association for
the Advancement of Science, and was printed in its Proceedings, vol.
xl., 1891. The article, Mental Prepossession and Inertia, appeared
in a college publication of the University of Wisconsin, the "Aegis"
(April, 1897). I have also to acknowledge my indebtedness to Miss
Helen Keller for her very interesting contribution to my presentation
of the dreams of the blind. My most comprehensive obligation in the
preparation of the volume I have acknowledged upon the dedicatory

                                             JOSEPH JASTROW.
  MADISON, WISCONSIN, November, 1900.


  PREFACE                                                       v


     I. The nature of the occult                                1

    II. Historical aspect of the occult                         5

   III. Theosophy                                               7

    IV. Spiritualism                                           12

     V. Practical occult systems: Alchemy                      18

    VI. Astrology, Phrenology, etc.                            21

   VII. The occult in relation to medicine                     24

  VIII. Christian Science                                      26

    IX. Other forms of occult healing                          33

     X. Influences affecting belief in the occult              38


     I. Science and its attitude toward borderland phenomena   47

    II. The attitude of Psychical Research; its relation
        to Psychology                                          50

   III. Types of interest in Psychical Research: the occult
        interest; the psychological interest; practical
        applications of "psychical" investigations; the
        explanatory interest; the investigative interest;
        the anthropological interest                           56

    IV. The content of the problems of Psychical Research:
        hypnotism; subconscious activities; hallucinations;
        telepathy                                              66

     V. The tendencies of Psychical Research                   75


  Introductory                                                 78

     I. Factors of the problem: unconscious mental processes;
        mental community; coincidences                         79

    II. The statistical nature of the inquiry; the
        application of theory to special cases                 83

   III. Sources of error in the data                           87

    IV. The source of coincidences in the subjective interest  88

     V. Résumé                                                 93

    VI. The value of the data; coincidences; experimental
        evidence; assumption and logical hypothesis            95

   VII. The legitimacy of the telepathic hypothesis            99

  VIII. Logical interpretation of the evidence                102


  Introductory                                                106

     I. The interpretative factor in perception; its
        relation to sense-deceptions                          106

    II. The rôle of the conjurer; the comprehension of
        conjuring tricks dependent upon a knowledge of
        technical detail; illustrations; conjuring
        deceptions as imitations of the conditions of
        real experience                                       111

   III. The subjective factors in deception: suggestion,
        expectation, misdirection of the attention; the
        setting of a trick; illustrations                     118

    IV. The subjective attitude and prepossession as a
        factor in deception; illustrated by the phenomena
        of Spiritualism; experimental proof of the
        influence of the belief-attitude; extreme instances
        of prepossession                                      125

     V. Mental contagion                                      132

    VI. Résumé; the safeguards against deception              134


     I. Origin of modern Spiritualism; a survey of typical
        manifestations; report of the Seybert Commission;
        reports of other observers                            137

    II. The belief in Spiritualism psychologically
        interpreted; the technical requisites for a
        judgment in the matter; the investigations of Messrs.
        Hodgson and Davey; the psychological factors
        contributory to deception                             147

   III. The logical status of Spiritualism                    159

    IV. The source of the belief in spirit-agency; its
        anthropological bearings; the appeal to unfortunate
        predispositions; the moral aversion to Spiritualism   166


  Introductory                                                171

     I. The historical aspect of hypnotism; the point of
        view of modern hypnotism                              172

    II. Healers of disease by mental methods; their methods;
        Greatrakes; Gassner                                   176

   III. Mesmer; the beginnings of Animal Magnetism;
        Mesmer's career in Paris; the Commission of 1784;
        decline of Mesmerism                                  180

    IV. The system of Animal Magnetism; its practices; a
        critical view                                         189

     V. Puységur and the discovery of artificial
        somnambulism; the status of Puységur; Pétetin and
        his contributions                                     193

    VI. The revival of Mesmerism; Abbé Faria; somnambulism
        in the hospitals of Paris; the report of the
        Commission of 1825; the report of the Commission
        of 1837                                               200

   VII. James Braid; his early observations; his
        enunciation of the physiology of the hypnotic
        state; his connection with phrenology; his later
        views; his recognition of unconscious deception       205

  VIII. The chaotic condition of hypnotism in the middle
        decades of the nineteenth century; hypnotism
        as an anæsthetic; scientific contributions            213

    IX. Extravagances of Mesmerism; Deleuze and his
        followers; "electro-biology;" Harriet Martineau's
        letters on Mesmerism; Mesmeric miracles;
        Reichenbach and the "odic" force                      216

     X. Transition to modern hypnotism; the scientific
        recognition of hypnotism; Charcot and his followers;
        Bernheim and the school of Nancy                      227

    XI. Principles illustrated by the history of hypnotism;
        lack of proper conceptions; unconscious suggestion;
        conclusion                                            231


     I. The logical and psychological aspects of analogy      236

    II. Analogy and primitive mental life; illustrations;
        sympathetic magic based upon analogy; further
        illustrations                                         238

   III. Analogy the basis of belief in the connection
        between object and name; illustrations; similar
        relation between the object and its image, drawing,
        or shadow                                             243

    IV. Analogy and metaphor; vaguer forms of analogy         248

     V. Analogy in children                                   250

    VI. Analogy in superstitions and folk-lore customs;
        in dream-interpretation; in fortune-telling; in
        numbers; in folk-medicine                             252

   VII. The doctrine of sympathies; of signatures;
        astrology; the rôle of analogy in these systems;
        their modern survivals                                261

  VIII. Analogy as a phase in mental evolution; the
        transition from superstition to science; the
        evolution of the race and of the individual;
        analogy, the serious thought habit of primitive man,
        becomes in civilization a source of amusement;
        conclusion                                            269


     I. The nature of perception; its subjective and
        objective factors                                     275

    II. Illustrations of the effects of the subjective
        factor                                                279

   III. Perception as modified by attention and by the
        mental concept; illustrations; equivocal drawings     282

    IV. The function of the mind's eye                        294


     I. The nature of prepossession; pedagogical
        illustrations                                         296

    II. Illustration derived from the experience of the
        Census Bureau                                         301

   III. Psychological interpretation                          304


     I. Unconscious activities                                307

    II. Muscle-reading; method of recording involuntary
        movements                                             308

   III. Illustrations and description of records of
        involuntary movements                                 312

    IV. Interpretation and analysis of records of
        involuntary movements                                 321

     V. Influence of the nature of the object of attention
        upon involuntary movements                            330

    VI. Other forms of involuntary indications;
        "involuntary whispering;" the subconscious            334


     I. The rôle of vision in mental life                     337

    II. The retention of vision in dreams as dependent
        upon the age of the loss of sight; the "critical
        period;" the investigation of Heermann in 1838;
        the status as to "dream-vision" of the partially
        blind                                                 340

   III. Corroborations of the above results by other
        evidence; the dreams of the blind-deaf; dreams of
        Laura Bridgman; Helen Keller's account of her
        dream-life; interpretations                           345

    IV. Distinctions in dream-life of incidents experienced
        during the period of sight from those of the
        blindness period; the imagination of the blind;
        illustrations of their dreams                         360

     V. Résumé                                                369

  INDEX                                                       371




If that imaginary individual so convenient for literary illustration,
a visitor from Mars, were to alight upon our planet at its present
stage of development, and if his intellectual interests induced him
to survey the range of terrestrial views of the nature of what is
"in heaven above, or on the earth beneath, or in the waters under
the earth," to appraise mundane opinion in regard to the perennial
problems of mind and matter, of government and society, of life
and death, our Martian observer might conceivably report that a
limited portion of mankind were guided by beliefs representing the
accumulated toil and studious devotion of generations,--the outcome
of a slow and tortuous but progressive growth through error and
superstition, and at the cost of persecution and bloodshed; that they
maintained institutions of learning where the fruits of such thought
could be imparted and the seeds cultivated to bear still more richly;
but that outside of this respectable yet influential minority, there
were endless upholders of utterly unlike notions and of widely
diverging beliefs, clamoring like the builders of the tower of Babel
in diverse tongues.

It is well, at least occasionally, to remember that our conceptions
of science and of truth, of the nature of logic and of evidence,
are not so universally held as we unreflectingly assume or as we
hopefully wish. Almost every one of the fundamental, basal, and
indisputable tenets of science is regarded as hopelessly in error
by some ardent would-be reformer. One Hampden declares the earth
to be a motionless plane with the North Pole as the centre; one
Carpenter gives a hundred remarkable reasons why the earth is not
round, with a challenge to the scientists of America to disprove
them; one Symmes regarded the earth as hollow and habitable within,
with openings at the poles, which he offered to explore for the
consideration of the "patronage of this and the new worlds;" while
Symmes, Jr., explains how the interior is lighted, and that it
probably forms the home of the lost tribes of Israel; and one Teed
announces, on equally conclusive evidence, that the earth is a
"stationary concave cell ... with people, Sun, Moon, Planets, and
Stars on the inside," the whole constituting an "alchemico-organic
structure, a Gigantic Electro-Magnetic Battery." If we were to
pass from opinions regarding the shape of the earth to the many
other and complex problems that appeal to human interests, it would
be equally easy to collect "ideas" comparable to these in value,
evidence, and eccentricity. With this conspicuously pathological
outgrowth of brain-functioning,--although its representatives in the
literature of the occult are neither few nor far between,--I shall
not specifically deal; and yet the general abuse of logic, the
helpless flounderings in the mire of delusive analogy, the baseless
assumptions, which characterize insane or "crank" productions, are
readily found in the literary products of occultism.

The occult consists of a mixed aggregate of movements and doctrines,
which may be the expressions of kindred interests and dispositions,
but present no essential community of content. Such members of this
cluster of beliefs as in our day and generation have attained a
considerable adherence or still retain it from former generations,
constitute the modern occult. A conspicuous and truly distinctive
characteristic of the occult is its marked divergence in trend and
belief from the recognized standards and achievements of human
thought. This divergence is one of attitude and logic and general
perspective. It is a divergence of intellectual temperament, that
distorts the normal reactions to science and evidence, and to the
general significance and values of the factors of our complicated
natures and of our equally complicated environment. At least it is
this in extreme and pronounced forms; and shades from it through
an irregular variety of tints to a vague and often unconscious
susceptibility for the unusual and eccentric, combined with an
instability of conviction regarding established beliefs that is more
often the expression of the weakness of ignorance than of the courage
of independence.

In their temper and course of unfoldment, occult doctrines are likely
to involve and to proceed upon mysticism, obscurity, and a disguised
form of superstition. In their content, they are attracted to such
themes as the ultimate nature of mental action, the conception
of life and death, the effect of cosmic conditions upon human
events and endowment, the delineation of character, the nature and
treatment of disease; or indeed to any of the larger or smaller
realms of knowledge that combine with a strong human, and at times
a practical interest, a considerable complexity of basal principles
and general relations. Both the temper and the content, the manner
and the matter of the occult, should be borne in mind in a survey
of its more distinctive examples. It is well, while observing the
particular form of occultism or mysticism, or, it may be, merely of
superstition and error, which one or another of the occult movements
exhibits, to note as well the importance of the intellectual motive
or temperament that inclines to the occult. It is important to
inquire not only what is believed, but what is the nature of the
evidence that induces belief; to observe what attracts and then makes
converts; to discover what are the influences by which the belief
spreads. Two classes of motives or interests are conspicuous: the
one prominently intellectual or theoretical, the other moderately or
grossly practical. Movements in which the former interest dominates,
contain elements that command respect even when they do not engage
sympathy; and that appeal, though it may be unwisely, to worthy
impulses and lofty aspirations. Amongst the movements presenting
prominent practical aspects are to be found instances of the most
irreverent and pernicious, as well as of the most vulgar, ignorant,
and fraudulent schemes which have been devised to mislead the human
mind. Most occult movements, however, are of a mixed character;
and in their career, the speculative and the practical change in
importance at different times, or in different lands, or at the hands
of variously minded leaders. Few escape, and some seem especially
designed for the partisanship of that class who are seeking whom they
may devour; who, stimulated by the greed for gain or the love of
notoriety, set their snares for the eternally gullible. The interest
in the occult, however, is under the sway of the law of fashion;
and fortunately, many a mental garment which is donned in spite of
the protest of reason and propriety, is quietly laid aside when the
dictum of the hour pronounces it unbecoming.


Historically considered, the occult points back to distant epochs and
to foreign civilizations; to ages when the facts of nature were but
weakly grasped, when belief was largely dominated by the authority
of tradition, when even the ablest minds fostered or assented to
superstition, when the social conditions of life were inimical
to independent thought, and the mass of men were cut off from
intellectual growth of even the most elementary kind. Pseudo-science
flourished in the absence of true knowledge; and imaginative
speculation and unfounded belief held the office intended for
inductive reason. Ignorance inevitably led to error, and false views
to false practices. In the sympathetic environment thus developed,
the occultist flourished and displayed the impressive insignia of
exclusive wisdom. His attitude was that of one seeking to solve an
enigma, to find the key to a secret arcanum; his search was for some
mystic charm, some talismanic formula, some magical procedure, which
should dispel the mist that hides the face of nature and expose her
secrets to his ecstatic gaze. By one all-encompassing, masterful
effort the correct solution was to be discovered or revealed; and
at once and for all, ignorance was to give place to true knowledge,
science and nature were to be as an open book, doubt and despair
to be replaced by the serenity of perfect wisdom. As our ordinary
senses and faculties proved insufficient to accomplish such ends,
supernatural powers were appealed to, a transcendental sphere of
spiritual activity was cultivated, capable of perceiving, through
the hidden symbolism of apparent phenomena, the underlying relations
of cosmic structure and final purposes. Long periods of training and
devotion, seclusion from the world, contemplation of inner mysteries,
were to lead the initiate through the various stages of adeptship
up to the final plane of communion with the infinite and the
comprehension of truth in all things. This form of occultism reaches
its fullest and purest expression in Oriental wisdom-religions. These
vie in interest to the historian with the mythology and philosophy
of Greece and Rome; and we of the Occident feel free to profit by
their ethical and philosophical content, and to cherish the impulses
which gave them life. But when such views are forcibly transplanted
to our age and clime, when they are decked in garments so unlike
their original vestments, particularly when they are associated with
dubious practices and come into violent conflict with the truth
that has accumulated since they first had birth,--their aspect is
profoundly altered, and they come within the circle of the modern


Of this character is Theosophy, an occult movement brought into
recent prominence by the activity and personality of Mme. Blavatsky.
The story of the checkered career of this remarkable woman is fairly
accessible. Born in Russia in 1831 as Helen Petrovna, daughter of
Colonel Hahn, of the Russian army, she was married at the age of
seventeen to an elderly gentleman, M. Blavatsky. She is described
in girlhood as a person of passionate temper and wilful and erratic
disposition. She separated or escaped from her husband after a few
months of married life, and entered upon an extended period of
travel and adventure. The search for "psychic" experiences and for
unusual persons and beliefs seemed to form the _leit-motiv_ of her
nomadic existence. She absorbed Hindu wisdom from the adepts of
India; she sat at the feet of a thaumaturgist at Cairo; she journeyed
to Canada to meet the medicine man of the Red Indians, and to New
Orleans to observe the practices of Voodoo among the negroes. It is
difficult to know what to believe in the accounts prepared by her
enthusiastic followers. Violations of physical law were constantly
occurring in her presence; and, to borrow a phrase from Mr. Lang,
"sporadic outbreaks of rappings and feats of impulsive pots, pans,
beds, and chairs insisted on making themselves notorious." In 1873
she came to New York and sat in "spiritualistic" circles, assuming
an assent to their theories, but claiming to see through and
beyond the manifestations the operations of her theosophic guides
in astral projection. At such a séance she met Colonel Olcott,
and assisted him in the foundation of the Theosophical Society in
New York in October, 1875. Mme. Blavatsky directed the thought of
this society to the doctrines of Indian occultism, and reported
the appearance in New York of a Hindu Mahatma, who left a turban
behind him as evidence of his astral visit. The Mahatmas, it was
explained, were a Society of Brothers, who dwelt in the fastnesses
of far-off Thibet, and there handed on by tradition the super-mortal
wisdom which their spirituality and contemplative training enabled
them to absorb. Later, this modern priestess of Isis and Colonel
Olcott (who remained her staunch supporter, but whom she referred
to in private as a "psychologized baby") exchanged the distracting
atmosphere of New York for the more serene environment of India;
and at Adyar established a shrine, from which were mysteriously
issued answers to letters placed within its recesses, from which
secret facts were revealed, and a variety of interesting marvels
performed. Discords arose within the household, and led to the
publication by M. and Mme. Coulomb, her confederates, of letters
illuminating the tricks of the trade by which the miracles had been
produced. Mme. Blavatsky pronounced the letters to be forgeries,
but they were sufficiently momentous to bring Mr. Hodgson to India
to investigate for the Society for Psychical Research. He was able
to deprive many of the miracles of their mystery; to show how the
shrine from which the Mahatma's messages emanated was accessible to
Mme. Blavatsky by the aid of sliding panels and secret drawers, to
show that these messages were in style, spelling, and handwriting
the counterpart of Mme. Blavatsky's, to show that many of the
phenomena were the result of planned collusion and that others were
created by the limitless credulity and the imaginative exaggeration
of the witnesses,--"domestic imbeciles," as madame confidentially
referred to them. Through the Akasic force, the medium of which was
the mysterious world-ether, Akaz, were brought messages that suddenly
appeared in space or fluttered down from the ceiling; yet M. Coulomb
explained how by means of a piece of thread, a convenient recess
in the plaster of the ceiling, and an arranged signal, the letters
could be made to appear at the proper dramatic moment. When a saucer
was left standing near the edge of a shelf in the shrine, and the
opening of the door brought it to the floor shattered to pieces, the
same mysterious force was sufficient to recreate it, without flaw
or blemish; but when Mr. Hodgson finds that at a shop at which Mme.
Blavatsky had made purchases, two such articles had been sold at the
price of two rupees eight annas the pair, the miracle becomes more

In brief, the report of the society convicted "the Priestess of Isis"
of "a long continued combination with other persons to produce by
ordinary means a series of apparent marvels for the support of the
Theosophic movement;" and concludes with these words: "For our own
part, we regard her neither as the mouthpiece of hidden seers nor as
a mere vulgar adventuress; we think that she has achieved a title to
permanent remembrance as one of the most accomplished, ingenious, and
interesting impostors in history." Mme. Blavatsky died in 1891, and
her ashes were divided between Adyar, London, and New York.

The Theosophic movement continues, though with abated vigor, owing
partly to the above-mentioned disclosures, but probably more to the
increasing propagandism of other cults, to the lack of a leader
of Mme. Blavatsky's genius, or to the inevitable ebb and flow of
such interests. Mme. Blavatsky continued to expound Theosophy after
the exposures, and although depressed by their publication still
occasionally essayed a miracle. Later, in a moment of confession
induced by the discovery of a package of Chinese envelopes ready
to serve for miraculous appearances, she is reported to have said,
"What is one to do, when in order to rule men it is necessary to
deceive them; when their very stupidity invites trickery, for
almost invariably the more simple, the more silly, and the more
gross the phenomena, the more likely it is to succeed?" Still,
even self-confession does not detract from the fervor of convinced
believers; and Mrs. Besant, Mr. Sinnett, and others were ready to
take up the work at her death. However, miracles are no longer
performed, and no immediately practical ends are proclaimed.
Individual development and evolution, mystic discourses on adeptship
and Karma and Maya and Nirvana, communion with the higher ends of
life, the cultivation of an esoteric psychic insight, form the goal
of present endeavor. The Mahatmas, says Mrs. Besant, are giving
"intellectual instructions, enormously more interesting than even the
exhibition of their abnormal powers." "Our European thinkers," thus
Mr. Podmore interprets Mr. Sinnett's attitude, "are like blind men
who are painfully learning to read with their fingers from a child's
primer, whilst these have eyes to see the universe, past, present,
and to come. To Mr. Sinnett it had been given to learn the alphabet
of that transcendent language." "He could make the most extravagant
mysticism seem matter of fact. He could write of _Manvantaras_
and _Nirvana_, and the septenary constitution of man, in language
which would have been appropriate in a treatise on kitchen-middens,
or the functions of the pineal gland. In his lucid prose the vast
conceptions of primitive Buddhism were fused with the commonplaces of
modern science; and whilst the cosmology which resulted from their
union dazzled by its splendid visions, the precise terminology of the
writer, and the very poverty of his imagination, served to reassure
his readers that they were listening to words of truth and soberness.
We were taught to look back upon this earth and all its mighty
sisterhood of planets and suns rolling onward in infinite space,
through cycle after cycle in the past. We were shown how, through
the perpetual flux and reflux of the spiritual and the natural, the
cosmic evolution was accomplished, and the earth grew, through the
life of crystal, and plant, and brute, to man. We saw how the worlds
throbbed in vast alternation of systole and diastole, and how the
tide of human life itself had its ebb and flow. And this fugitive
human personality--the man who works, and loves, and suffers--we saw
to endure but for a short life on earth, and for an age, shorter or
longer, in _Devachan_. Memory is then purged away, the eternal spirit
puts on a new dress, and a new life on earth is begun. And so through
each succeeding reincarnation the goal of the life preceding becomes
the starting-point of the life which follows." In such manner the
modern Theosophist seeks to appeal to men and women of philosophical
inclinations, for whom an element of mysticism has its charm, and
who are intellectually at unrest with the conceptions underlying
modern science and modern life. Such persons are quite likely to be
educated, refined, and sincere. We may believe them intellectually
misguided; we may recognize the fraud to which their leader resorted
to glorify her creed, but we must equally recognize the absence of
many pernicious tendencies in their teachings, which characterize
other and more practical occult movements.


Spiritualism, another member of the modern occult family, presents
a combination of features rather difficult to portray; but its
public career of half a century has probably rendered its tenets and
practices fairly familiar.[1] For, like other movements, it presents
both doctrines and manifestations; and, like other movements, it
achieved its popularity through its manifestations and emphasized the
doctrines to maintain the interest and solidarity of its numerous
converts. Deliberate fraud has been repeatedly demonstrated in a
large number of alleged "spiritualistic" manifestations; in many more
the very nature of the phenomena and of the conditions under which
they appear is so strongly suggestive of trickery as to render any
other hypothesis of their origin equally improbable and superfluous.
Unconscious deception, exaggerated and distorted reports, defective
and misleading observation, have been demonstrated to be most potent
reagents, whereby alleged miracles are made to throw off their
mystifying envelopings and to leave a simple deposit of intelligible
and often commonplace fact. That the methods of this or that medium
have not been brought within the range of such explanation may be
admitted, but the admission carries with it no bias in favor of the
spiritualistic hypothesis. It may be urged, however, that where there
is much smoke there is apt to be some fire; yet there is little
prospect of discovering the nature of the fire until the smoke has
been completely cleared away. Perhaps it has been snatched from
heaven by a materialized Prometheus; perhaps it may prove to be the
trick of a _ridiculus mus_ gnawing at a match. And yet, in this
connection, the main point to be insisted upon with regard to such
manifestations is that their interpretation and their explanation
demand some measure of technical knowledge and training, and of
special adaptability to such pursuits. "The problem cannot be solved
and settled by amateurs, nor by 'common sense' that

      'Delivers brawling judgments all day long,
      On all things unashamed.'"

Spiritualism represents a systematization of popular beliefs and
superstitions, modified by echoes of religious and philosophical
doctrines; it thus contains factors which owe their origin to other
interests than those which lead directly to the occult. Its main
purpose was to establish the reality of communication with departed
spirits; the means, which at first spontaneously presented themselves
and later were devised for this purpose, were in large measure not
original. The rappings are in accord with the traditional folk-lore
behavior of ghosts; their transformation into a signal code (although
a device discovered before) may have been due to the originality of
the Fox children; the planchette has its analogies in Chinese and
European modes of divination; clairvoyance was incorporated from the
phenomena of artificial somnambulism, as practiced by the successors
of Mesmer; the "sensitive" or "medium" suggests the same origin as
well as the popular belief in the gift of supernatural powers in
favored individuals; others of the phenomena, such as "levitation"
and "cabinet performances," have their counterparts in Oriental
magic; "slate-writing," "form materializations," "spirit-messages"
and "spirit photographs" are, in the main, modern contributions. Mr.
Lang has attractively set forth the resemblances between primitive
and ancient spiritualism and its modern revival; he suggests that
"the 'Trance Medium,' the 'Inspirational Speaker' was a reproduction
of the maiden with a spirit of divination, of the Delphic Pythia.
In the old belief, the god dominated her, and spoke from her lips,
just as the 'control' or directing spirit dominates the medium." He
suggests that it is for like reasons that "the Davenport Brothers,
like Eskimo and Australian conjurers, like the Highland seer in
the bull's hide," are swathed or bound; he notes that "the lowest
savages have their _séances_, levitations, bindings of the medium,
trance speakers; Peruvians, Indians, have their objects moved without
contact;" he surmises that the Fox children, being of a Methodist
family, may have been inspired by "old Jeffrey," who haunted the
Wesleys' house.

The phenomena now associated with modern Spiritualism, with their
characteristic _milieu_, breed the typical atmosphere of the séance
chamber, which resists precise analysis, but which in its extreme
form involves morbid credulity, blind prepossession, and emotional
contagion; while the dependence of the phenomena on the character
of the medium offers strong temptation alike to shrewdness,
eccentricity, and dishonesty. On the side of his teachings the
Spiritualist is likewise not strikingly original. The relations of
his beliefs to those that grew about the revelations of Swedenborg,
to the speculations of the German "pneumatologists," and to other
philosophical doctrines, though perhaps not intimate, are yet
traceable and interesting; and in another view the Spiritualist is as
old as man himself, and finds his antecedents in the necromancer of
Chaldea, or in the Shaman of Siberia, or the Angekok of Greenland, or
the spirit-doctor of various savage tribes. The modern mediums are
thus simply repeating with new costumes and improved scenic effects
the mystic drama of primitive man.

Spiritualism thus appeals to a deep-seated craving in human nature,
that of assurance of personal immortality and of communion with
the departed. Just so long as a portion of mankind will accept
material evidence of such a belief, and will even countenance the
irreverence, the triviality, and the vulgarity surrounding the
manifestations; just so long as those persons will misjudge their
own powers of detecting how the alleged supernatural appearances
are really produced, and remain unimpressed by the principles upon
which alone a consistent explanation is possible, just so long will
Spiritualism and kindred delusions flourish.

As to the present-day status of this cult it is not easy to speak
positively. Its _clientèle_ has apparently greatly diminished;
it still numbers amongst its adherents men and women of culture
and education, and many more who cannot be said to possess these
qualities. There seems to be a considerable class of persons who
believe that natural laws are insufficient to account for their
personal experiences and those of others, and who temporarily or
permanently incline to a spiritualistic 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.[2]

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. The present disposition to take up "spiritual healing"
and "spiritual readings of the future" rather than mere assurances
from the dead, indicates a desire 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 aberrant
belief; and there is no difficulty in tracing the imprints of its
footsteps on the sands of the occult.


The impress of ancient and mediæval 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 the modern chemist, makes impossible his
consideration of the alchemist's search, we may note how far the
inherent constitution of the elements, to say nothing of their
possible transmutation, has eluded his most ultimate analysis.
How immeasurably further it was removed from the grasp of the
alchemist can hardly be expressed. But this is a scientific and not
an occult view of the matter; it was not by progressive training
in marksmanship that the occultist hoped to send his arrows to the
stars. His was a mystic search for the magical transmutation, the
elixir of life or the philosopher's stone. One might suppose that,
once the world has agreed that these ends are past finding out,
the alchemist, like the maker of stone arrow-heads, would have
found his occupation gone and have left no successor. His modern
representative, however, is an interesting and by no means extinct
species. He seems to flourish in France, but may be found in Germany,
in England, and in this country. He is rarely a pure alchemist
(although so recently as 1854 one of them offered to manufacture gold
for the French mint), but represents the pure type of occultist.
He calls himself a Rosicrucian; he establishes a University of the
Higher Studies, and becomes a professor of Hermetic Philosophy. His
thought is mystic, and symbolism has an endless fascination for
him. The recondite significance of numbers, extravagant analogies
of correspondence, the traditional hidden meanings of the Kabbalah,
fairly intoxicate him; and verbose accounts of momentous relations
and of unintelligible discoveries run riot in his writings. His
science is not a mere Chemistry, but a Hyper-Chemistry; his
transmutations are no longer material, but assume a spiritual aspect.
Like all adept followers of an esoteric belief, he must stand apart
from his fellow-men; he must cultivate the higher "psychic" powers,
so that eventually he may be able by the mere action of his will to
cause the atoms to group themselves into gold.

The modern alchemist is apt to be a general occultist; he may be also
an astrologer or a magnetist or a theosophist. But he is foremost
an ardent enthusiast for exclusive and unusual lore--not the common
and superficial possessions of misguided democratic science. He goes
through the forms of study, remains superior to the baser practical
ends of life, and finds his reward in the self-satisfaction of
exclusive wisdom. In Paris, at least, he forms part of a rather
respectable _salon_, speaking socially, or a "company of educated
charlatans," speaking scientifically. His class does not constitute a
large proportion of modern occultists, but they present a prominent
form of its intellectual temperament. "There are also people," says
Mr. Lang, "who so dislike our detention in the prison-house of old
unvarying laws that their bias is in favor of anything which may tend
to prove that science in her contemporary mood is not infallible. As
the Frenchman did not care what sort of a scheme he invested money
in, provided that it annoys the English, so many persons do not
care what they invest belief in, provided that it irritates men of
science." Of such is the kingdom of alchemists and their brethren.


Astrology, Phrenology, Physiognomy, and Palmistry have in common
a search for positive knowledge whereby to regulate the affairs
of life, to foretell the future, to comprehend one's destiny
and capabilities. They aim to secure success, or at least to be
forearmed against failure by being forewarned. This is a natural,
a practical, and in no essential way an occult desire. It becomes
occult, or, more accurately, superstitious, when it is satisfied by
appeals to relations and influences which do not exist, and by false
interpretation of what may be admitted as measurably and vaguely
true and about equally important. When not engaged in their usual
occupation of building most startling superstructures on the most
insecure foundations, practical occultists are like Dr. Holmes's
katydid, "saying an undisputed thing in such a solemn way." They
will not hearken to the experience of the ages that success cannot
be secured nor character read by discovering their unreal or mystic
stigmata; they will not learn from physiology and psychology that
the mental capabilities, the moral and emotional endowment of an
individual are not stamped on his body in such a way that they may
be revealed by half an hour's use of the calipers and tape-measure;
they will not listen when science and common sense unite in teaching
that the knowledge of mental powers is not such as may be applied
by rule of thumb to individual cases, but that, like much other
valuable knowledge, it proceeds by the exercise of sound judgment,
and must as a rule rest content with suggestive generalizations and
imperfectly established correlations. An educated man with wholesome
interests and a vigorous logical sense can consider a possible
science of character and the means of aiding its advance without
danger and with some profit. But this meat is sheer poison to those
who are usually attracted to this type of speculations, while it
offers to the unscrupulous charlatan a most convenient net to spread
for the unwary. In so far as these occult mariners, the astrologists
and phrenologists _et id genus omne_, are sincere, and in so far
represent superstition rather than commercial fraud, they simply
ignore, through obstinacy or ignorance, the lighthouses and charts
and the other aids to modern navigation, and persist in steering
their craft by an occult compass. In some cases they are professedly
setting out, not for any harbor marked on terrestrial maps, but
their expedition is for the golden fleece or for the apples of the
Hesperides; and with loud-voiced advertisements of their skill as
pilots, they proceed to form stock companies for the promotion of
their several enterprises and to dispose of the shares to credulous

It would be a profitless task to review the alleged data of
Astrology or Phrenology or Palmistry, except for the illustrations
which they readily yield of the nature of the conceptions and of
the logic which command a certain popular interest and acceptance.
The interest in these notions is, as Mr. Lang argues about ghosts
and rappings and bogles, in how they come to be believed, rather
than in how much or how little they chance to be true. It must be
remembered also that our present interest is in the occult factors
of these composite systems; they each contain other factors,--in
part incorporations of vague and distorted scientific truths, in
part dogmatic overstatement of results of observation, which, if
reduced to the proportions warranted by definite evidence, dissolve
into insignificance or intangibility, in part plausible or specious
argumentation, and in still greater part mere fanciful assertion. And
if we proceed to examine the professed evidence for the facts and
laws and principles (_sit venia verbis_) that pervade Astrology or
Phrenology or Palmistry or dream-interpretation, or beliefs of that
ilk, we find the flimsiest kind of texture, that will hardly bear
examination, and holds together only so long as it is kept secluded
from the light of day. Far-fetched analogy, baseless assertion, the
uncritical assimilation of popular superstitions, a great deal of
prophecy after the event (it is wonderful how clearly the astrologer
finds the indications of Napoleon's career in his horoscope, or the
phrenologist reads them in the Napoleonic cranial protuberances),
much fanciful elaboration of detail, ringing the variations on a
sufficiently complex and non-demonstrable proposition, cultivating
a convenient vagueness of expression, together with an apologetic
skill in providing for and explaining exceptions, the courage
to ignore failure and the shrewdness to profit by coincidences
and half-assimilated smatterings of science, and with it all an
insensibility to the moral and intellectual demands of the logical
decalogue,--and you have the skeleton, which, clothed with one
flesh, becomes Astrology, and with another Phrenology, and with
another Palmistry or Solar Biology or Descriptive Mentality or what
not. Such pseudo-sciences thrive upon that widespread and intense
craving for practical guidance of our individual affairs, which is
not satisfied with judicious applications of general principles, with
due consideration of the probabilities and uncertainties of human
life, but demands an impossible and precise revelation. Not all that
passes for, and in a way is knowledge, is or is likely soon to become
scientific; and when a peasant parades in an academic gown the result
is likely to be a caricature.


To achieve fortune, to judge well and command one's fellow-men, to
foretell and control the future, to be wise in worldly lore, are
natural objects of human desire; but still another is essential to
happiness. Whether we attempt to procure these good fortunes by
going early to bed and early to rise, or by more occult procedures,
we wish to be healthy as well as wealthy and wise. The maintenance
of health and the perpetuity of youth were not absent from the
mediæval occultist's search, and formed an essential part of the
benefits to be conferred by the elixir of life and the philosopher's
stone. A series of superstitions and extravagant systems are
conspicuous in the antecedents and the by-paths of the history of
medicine, and are related to it much as astrology is to astronomy,
or alchemy to chemistry; and because medicine in part remains and
to previous generations was conspicuously an empirical art rather
than a science, it offers great opportunity for practical error
and misapplied partial knowledge. It is not necessary to go back
to early civilizations or to primitive peoples, among whom the
medicine-man and the priest were one and alike appealing to occult
powers, nor to early theories of disease which beheld in insanity
the obsession of demons and resorted to exorcism to cast them out;
it is not necessary to consider the various personages who acquired
notoriety as healers by laying on of hands or by appeal to faith,
or who, like Mesmer, introduced the system of animal magnetism, or,
like some of his followers, sought directions for healing from the
clairvoyant dicta of somnambules; it is not necessary to ransack
folk-lore superstitions and popular remedies for the treatment of
disease; for the modern forms of "irregular" healing offer sufficient
illustrations of occult methods of escaping the ills that flesh is
heir to.

The existence of a special term for a medical impostor is doubtless
the result of the prevalence of the class thus named; but quackery
and occult medicine, though mutually overlapping, can by no means be
held accountable for one another's failings. Many forms of quackery
proceed on the basis of superstitions or fanciful or exaggerated
notions containing occult elements, but for the present purpose it
is wise to limit attention to those in which this occult factor is
distinctive; for medical quackery in its larger relations is neither
modern nor occult. Occult healing takes its distinctive character
from the theory underlying the practice rather than from the nature
of the practice. It is not so much what is done, as why it is done,
or pretended to be done or not done, that determines its occult
character. A factor of prominence in modern occult healing is indeed
one that in other forms characterized many of its predecessors, and
was rarely wholly absent from the connection between the procedure
and the result; this is the mental factor, which may be called upon
to give character to a theory of disease, or be utilized consciously
or unconsciously as a curative principle. It is not implied that
"mental medicine" is necessarily and intrinsically occult, but only
that the general trend of modern occult notions regarding disease
may be best portrayed in certain typical forms of "psychic" healing.
The legitimate recognition of the importance of mental conditions
in health and disease is one of the results of the union of modern
psychology and modern medicine. An exaggerated and extravagant as
well as pretentious and illogical overstatement and misstatement of
this principle may properly be considered as occult.


Among such systems there is one which by its momentary prominence
overshadows all others; and for this reason, as well as for its
more explicit or rather more extended statement of principles, must
be accorded special attention: I need hardly say that I refer to
that egregious misnomer, Christian Science. This system is said
to have been discovered by, or revealed to, Mrs. Mary Baker Glover
Eddy in 1866. Several of its most distinctive positions (without
their religious setting) are to be found in the writings, and were
used in the practice of Mr. or Dr. P. P. Quimby (1802-1866), whom
Mrs. Eddy professionally consulted shortly before she began her own
propagandum. On its theoretical side, the system presents a series
of quasi-metaphysical principles and also a professed interpretation
of the Scriptures; on its practical side, it offers a means of
curing or avoiding disease, and includes under disease also what
is more generally described as sin and misfortune. With Christian
Science as a religious movement I shall not directly deal; I wish,
however, to point out that this assumption of a religious aspect
finds a parallel in Spiritualism and Theosophy, and doubtless forms
one of the most potent reasons for the success of these occult
movements. It would be a most dangerous principle to admit that the
treatment of disease and the right to ignore hygiene can become the
perquisite of any religious faith. It would be equally unwarranted
to permit the principles which are responsible for such beliefs to
take shelter behind the ramparts of religious tolerance, for the
essential principles of Christian Science do not constitute a form of
Christianity any more than they constitute a science; but, in so far
as they do not altogether elude description, pertain to the domain
over which medicine, physiology, and psychology hold sway. As David
Harum, in speaking of his church-going habits, characteristically
explains, "the one I stay away from when I don't go 's the
Presbyteriun," so the doctrines which Christian Science "stays
away from," are those over which recognized departments of academic
learning have the authority to decide.

Mrs. Eddy's _magnum opus_, serving at once as the text-book of the
"science" and as a revised version of the Scriptures, "Science and
Health, with Key to the Scriptures," has been circulated to the
extent of one hundred and seventy thousand copies. I shall not
give an account of this book, nor subject its more tangible tenets
to a logical review; I must be content to recommend its pages as
suggestive reading for the student of the modern occult, and to
set forth in the credentials of quotation marks some of the dicta
concerning disease. Yet it may be due to the author, or mouthpiece,
of this system, to begin by citing what are declared to be its
fundamental tenets, even if their connection with what is built upon
them is far from evident.

    "The fundamental propositions of Christian Science are
    summarized in the four following, to me, _self-evident_
    propositions. Even if read backward, these propositions
    will be found to agree in statement and proof:--

    "1. God is All in all.

    "2. God is good. Good is Mind.

    "3. God, Spirit, being all, nothing is matter.

    "4. Life, God, omnipotent Good, deny death, evil,
    sin, disease--Disease, sin, evil, death, deny Good,
    omnipotent God, Life."

    "What is termed disease does not exist." "Matter has no
    being." "All is mind." "Matter is but the subjective
    state of what is here termed _mortal mind_." "All
    disease is the result of education, and can carry
    its ill effects no farther than mortal mind maps out
    the way." "The fear of dissevered bodily members,
    or a belief in such a possibility, is reflected on
    the body, in the shape of headache, fractured bones,
    dislocated joints, and so on, as directly as shame
    is seen rising to the cheek. This human error about
    physical wounds and colics is part and parcel of
    the delusion that matter can feel and see, having
    sensation and substance." "Insanity implies belief in
    a diseased brain, while physical ailments (so-called)
    arise from belief that some other portions of the
    body are deranged.... A bunion would produce insanity
    as perceptible as that produced by congestion of the
    brain, were it not that mortal mind calls the bunion
    an unconscious portion of the body. Reverse this
    belief and the results would be different." "We weep
    because others weep, we yawn because they yawn, and
    we have small-pox because others have it; but mortal
    mind, not matter, contains and carries the infection."
    "A Christian Scientist never gives medicine, never
    recommends hygiene, never manipulates." "Anatomy,
    Physiology, Treatises on Health, sustained by what is
    termed material law, are the husbandmen of sickness
    and disease." "You can even educate a healthy horse
    so far in physiology that he will take cold without
    his blanket." "If exposure to a draught of air while
    in a state of perspiration is followed by chills, dry
    cough, influenza, congestive symptoms in the lungs, or
    hints of inflammatory rheumatism, your Mind-remedy is
    safe and sure. If you are a Christian Scientist, such
    symptoms will not follow from the exposure; but if
    you believe in laws of matter and their fatal effects
    when transgressed, you are not fit to conduct your own
    case or to destroy the bad effects of belief. When the
    fear subsides and the conviction abides that you have
    broken no law, neither rheumatism, consumption, nor
    any other disease will ever result from exposure to
    the weather." "Destroy fear and you end the fever."
    "To prevent disease or cure it mentally let spirit
    destroy the dream of sense. If you wish to heal by
    argument, find the type of the ailment, get its name,
    and array your mental plea against the physical. Argue
    with the patient (mentally, not audibly) that he has
    no disease, and conform the argument to the evidence.
    Mentally insist that health is the everlasting fact,
    and sickness the temporal falsity. Then realize the
    presence of health, and the corporeal senses will
    respond, so be it." "My publications alone heal more
    sickness than an unconscientious student can begin to
    reach." "The quotients, when numbers have been divided
    by a fixed rule, are not more unquestionable than the
    scientific tests I have made of the effects of truth
    upon the sick." "I am never mistaken in my scientific
    diagnosis of disease." "Outside of Christian Science
    all is vague and hypothetical, the opposite of Truth."
    "Outside Christian Science all is error."

Surely this is a remarkable product of mortal mind! It would perhaps
be an interesting _tour de force_, though hardly so entertaining as
"Alice in Wonderland," to construct a universe on the assertions
and hypotheses which Christian Science presents; but it would have
less resemblance to the world we know than has Alice's wonderland.
For any person for whom logic and evidence are something more real
than ghosts or myths, the feat must always be relegated to the airy
realm of the imagination, and must not be brought in contact with
earthly realities. And yet the extravagance of Mrs. Eddy's book, its
superb disdain of vulgar fact, its transcendental self-confidence,
its solemn assumption that reiteration and variation of assertion
somehow spontaneously generate proof or self-evidence, its shrewd
assimilation of a theological flavor, its occasional successes in
producing a presentable travesty of scientific truth,--all these
distinctions may be found in many a dust-covered volume, that
represents the intensity of conviction of some equally enthusiastic
and equally inspired occultist, but one less successful in securing a
chorus to echo his refrain.

The temptation is strong not to dismiss "Eddyism" without
illustrating the peculiar structures under which, in an effort to be
consistent, it is forced to take shelter. Since disease is always
of purely mental origin, it follows that disease and its symptoms
cannot ensue without the conscious coöperation of the patient;
since "Christian Science divests material drugs of their imaginary
power," it follows that the labels on the bottles that stand on the
druggist's shelves are correspondingly meaningless. And it becomes
an interesting problem to inquire how the consensus of mortal mind
came about that associates one set of symptoms with prussic acid,
and another with alcohol, and another with quinine. Inhaling oxygen
or common air would prepare one for the surgeon's knife, and prussic
acid or alcohol have no more effect than water, if only a congress of
nations were to pronounce the former to be anæsthetic and promulgate
a decree that the latter be harmless. Christian Science does not
flinch from this position. "If a dose of poison is swallowed through
mistake and the patient dies, even though physician and patient are
expecting favorable results, does belief, you ask, cause this death?
Even so, and as directly as if the poison had been intentionally
taken. In such cases a few persons believe the potion swallowed by
the patient to be harmless; but the vast majority of mankind, though
they know nothing of this particular case and this special person,
believe the arsenic, the strychnine, or whatever the drug used, to
be poisonous, for it has been set down as a poison by mortal mind.
The consequence is that the result is controlled by the majority of
opinions outside, not by the infinitesimal minority of opinions in
the sick chamber." But why should the opinions of οἱ πολλοί [Greek:
hoi polloi] be of influence in such a case, and the enlightened
minorities be sufficient to effect the marvelous cures in all the
other cases? Christian Scientists do not take cold in draughts in
spite of the contrary opinions or illusions of misguided majorities.
The logical Christian Scientist concludes that he need not eat, "for
the truth is food does not affect the life of man;" and yet at once
renounces his faith by adding, "but it would be foolish to venture
beyond our present understanding, foolish to stop eating, until
we gain more goodness and a clearer comprehension of the living
God." And the mental physician, to be consistent, must be a mental
surgeon also; and not plead that, "Until the advancing age admits the
efficacy and supremacy of mind, it is better to leave the adjustment
of broken bones and dislocations to the fingers of surgeons."

But it is unprofitable to consider the failings and absurdities of
any occult system in its encounters with actual science and actual
fact. It is simply as a real and prominent menace to rationality that
these doctrines naturally attract consideration. Regarding them as
illustrations of present-day occult beliefs, we are naturally tempted
to inquire what measure of (perverted) truth they may contain; but
the more worthy question is, How do such perversions come to find
so large a company of "supporting listeners"? For to any one who
can read and be convinced by the sequence of words of this system,
ordinary logic has no power, and to him the world of reality brings
no message. No form of the modern occult antagonizes the foundations
of science so brusquely as this one. The possibility of science rests
on the thorough and absolute distinction between the subjective
and the objective. In what measure a man loses the power to draw
this distinction clearly, and as other men do, in that measure he
becomes irrational or insane. The objective exists; and no amount of
thinking it away or thinking it differently will change it. That is
what is understood by ultimate scientific truth; something that will
endure unmodified by passing ways of viewing it, open to every one's
verification who comes equipped with the proper means to verify,--a
permanent objective, to be ascertained by careful logical inquiry,
not to be determined by subjective opinion. Logic is the language of
science; Christian Science and what sane men call science can never
communicate because they do not speak the same language.


It would be unfortunate to emphasize the popular preëminence of
Christian Science at a cost of the neglect of the significance of the
many other forms of "drugless healing," which bid for public favor
by appeal to ignorance and to occult and superstitious instincts.
Some are allied to Christian Science, and like it assimilate their
cult to a religious movement; others are unmistakably the attempts
of charlatans to lure the credulous by noisy advertisements of
newly discovered and scientifically indorsed systems of "psychic
force," or of some personal "ism." For many purposes it would be
unjust to group together such various systems, which in the nature
of things must include sinner and saint, the misguided sincere, the
half-believers who think "there may be something in it," or "that
it is worth a trial," along with scheming quacks and adepts in
commercial fraud. They illustrate the many and various roads traveled
in the search for health, by pilgrims who are dissatisfied with the
highways over which medical science pursues its steadfast though it
may be devious course. Among them there is plausible exaggeration and
ignorant perversion and dishonest libel of the relations that bind
together body and mind. Among the several schisms from the "Mother
Church of Christian Science" there is one that claims to be the
"rational phase of the mental healing doctrine," that acknowledges
the reality of disease and the incurability of serious organic
disorders, and resents any connection with the "half-fanatical
personality worship" (of Mrs. Eddy) as quite as foreign to its
tenets as would be the views of the "Free Religious Association" to
the "Pope of Rome." "Divine Healing" exhibits its success in one
notable instance, in the establishment of a school and college, a
bank, a land and investment association, a printing and publishing
office, and sundry divine healing homes; and this prosperity is now
to be extended by the foundation of a city or colony of converts,
who shall be united by the common bond of faith in divine healing
as transmitted in the personal power of their leader. The official
organ of this movement announces that the personification of their
faith "makes her religion a business and conducts herself upon
sound business principles;" their leader publicly boasts of his vast
financial returns. With emphatic protest on the part of each that
he alone holds the key to salvation, and that his system is quite
original and unlike any other, comes the procession of Metaphysical
Healer and Mind-Curist and Viticulturist and Magnetic Healer and
Astrological Health Guide and Phrenopathist and Medical Clairvoyant
and Esoteric Vibrationist and Psychic Scientist and Mesmerist and
Occultist. Some use or abuse the manipulations of hypnotism; others
claim the power to concentrate the magnetism of the air and to excite
the vital fluids by arousing the proper mental vibrations, or by some
equally lucid and demonstrable procedure; some advertise magnetic
cups, and positive and negative powders, and absent treatment by
outputs of "psychic force," and countless other imposing devices.
In truth, they form a motley crew, and with their "Colleges of Fine
Forces," and "Psychic Research Companies," offering diplomas and
degrees for a three weeks' course of study or the reading of a book,
represent the slums of the occult. An account of their methods is
likely to be of as much interest to the student of fraud as to the
student of opinion.

There can be no doubt that many of these systems have been stimulated
into life or into renewed vigor by the success of Christian Science;
this is particularly noticeable in the introduction of absent
treatment as a plank in their diverse platforms. This ingenious
method of restoring the health of their patients and their own
exchequers appealed to all the band of healing occultists from
Spiritualist to Vibrationist, as easily adaptable to their several
systems. In much the same way Mesmer, more than a hundred years ago,
administered to the practice which had exhausted the capacity of
his personal attention, by magnetizing trees and selling magnetized
water. The absent treatment represents the occult extension movement;
and unencumbered by the hampering restrictions of physical forces,
superior even to wireless telegraphy, carries its influence into the
remotest homes. From ocean to ocean, and from North to South, these
absent healers set apart some hour of the day, when they mentally
convey their healing word to the scattered members of their flock.
On the payment of a small fee you are made acquainted with the
"soul-communion time-table" for your longitude, and may know when
to meet the healing vibrations as they pass by. Others disdain any
such temporal details and assure a cure merely on payment of the
fee; the healer will know sympathetically when and how to transmit
the curative impulses. Poverty and bad habits as well as disease
readily succumb to the magic of the absent treatment. Such an
hysterical edict as this is hardly extreme or unusual: "Join the
Success Circle.... The Centre of that Circle is my omnipotent WORD.
Daily I speak it. Its vibrations radiate more and more powerfully day
by day.... As the sun sends out vibrations ... so my WORD radiates
Success to 10,000 lives as easily as to one."

It is impossible to appreciate fully the extravagances of these
occult healers unless one makes a sufficient sacrifice of time
and patience to read over a considerable sample of the periodical
publications with which American occultism fairly teems. And when
one has accomplished this task he is still at sea to account for
the readers and believers who support these various systems, so
undreamt of in our philosophy. It would really seem that there is
no combination of ideas too absurd to fail entirely of a following.
Carlyle, without special provocation, concluded that there were about
forty million persons in England, mostly fools; what would have been
his comment in the face of this vast and universal array of human
folly! If it be urged in rejoinder that beneath all this rubbish
heap a true jewel lies buried, that the wonderful cures and the
practical success of these various systems indicate their dependence
upon an essential and valuable factor in the cure of disease and the
formation of habits, it is possible with reservation to assent, and
with emphasis to demur. Such success, in so far as it is rightly
reported, exemplifies the truly remarkable function of the mental
factor in the control of normal as of disordered physiological
functions. This truth has been recognized and utilized in unobtrusive
ways for many generations, and within recent years has received
substantial elaboration from carefully conducted experiments and
observations. Specifically, the therapeutic action of suggestion,
both in its more usual forms and as hypnotic suggestion, has shown
to what unexpected extent such action may proceed in susceptible
individuals. The well-informed and capable physician requires no
instruction on this point; his medical education furnishes him with
the means of determining the symptoms of true organic disorder, of
functional derangement, and of the modifications of these under the
more or less unconscious interference of an unfortunate nervous
system. It is quite as human for the physician as for other mortals
to err; and there is doubtless as wide a range among them, as among
other pursuits, of ability, tact, and insight. "But when all is
said and done," the fundamental fact remains that the utilization
of the mental factor in the alleviation of disease will be best
administered by those who are specifically trained in the knowledge
of bodily and of mental symptoms of disease. Such application of an
established scientific principle may prove to be a jewel of worth
in the hands of him who knows how to cut and set it. The difference
between truth and error, between science and superstition, between
what is beneficent to mankind and what is pernicious, frequently lies
in the interpretation and the spirit as much as, or more than, in
the fact. The utilization of mental influences in health and disease
becomes the one or the other according to the wisdom and the truth
and the insight into the real relations of things, that guide its
application. As far removed as chemistry from alchemy, as astronomy
from astrology, as the doctrine of the localization of function
in the brain from phrenology, as hypnotic suggestion from animal
magnetism, are the crude and perverse notions of Christian Scientist
or Metaphysical Healer removed from the rational application of the
influence of the mind over the body.


The growth and development of the occult presents an interesting
problem in the psychology of belief. The motives that induce the
will to believe in the several doctrines that have been passed
in review are certainly not more easy to detect and to describe
than would be the case in reference to the many other general
problems--philosophical, scientific, religious, social, political,
or educational--on which the right to an opinion is accepted as an
inalienable heritage of humanity or at least of democracy. Professor
James tells us that often "our faith is faith in some one else's
faith, and in the greatest matters this is most the case." Certainly
the waves of popularity of one cult and another reflect the potent
influence of contagion in the formation of opinion and the guidance
of conduct. When we look upon the popular delusions of the past
through the achromatic glasses which historical remoteness from
present conditions enables us to adjust to our eyes, we marvel that
good and great men could have been so grossly misled, that obvious
relations and fallacies could have been so stupidly overlooked,
that worthless and prejudiced evidence could have been accepted as
sound and significant. But the opinions to which we incline are all
colored o'er with the deep tinge of emotional reality, which is the
living expression of our interest in them or our inclination toward
them. What they require is a more vigorous infusion of the pale cast
of thought; for the problem of the occult and the temptations to
belief which it holds out are such as can be met only by a sturdy
application of a critical logic. Only as logical thoroughness comes
to prevail over superficial plausibility, as beliefs come to be
formed and evidence estimated according to their intrinsic value
rather than according to their emotional acceptability, will the
propagandum of the occult meet with greater resistance and aversion.

The fixation of belief proceeds under the influence both of general
and of special forces; the formation of a belief is at once a
personal and a social reaction--a reaction to the evidence which
recorded and personal experiences present, and to the current beliefs
of our environment. To an equal extent is the reaction determined
by the temperament of the reagent. And although the resulting
individual beliefs, however complex, are not matters of chance nor
are their causes altogether past finding out, yet some of their
contributing factors are so vague and so inaccessible that they
are most profitably considered as specific results of more or less
clearly discerned general principles; and in many respects there is
more valid interest in the general principles than in the particular
results. It is interesting, and it may be profitable, to investigate
why this area is wooded with oak and that with maple, but it is
somewhat idle to speculate why this particular tree happens to be
a maple rather than an oak, even if it chances to stand on our own
property, and to have an interest to us beyond all other trees.

Among the more tangible tendencies that in various ways lead to the
occult there is distinguishable what may be termed the intensely
personal temperament,--the mental attitude that absorbs knowledge
only when dissolved in an all-pervading personal medium; the attitude
that finds a paramount significance in the personal interpretation
of experiences, and reacts to massive and extensive generalizations
most vaguely and impotently; the attitude that offers a weak and
verbal assent to scientific principles and to the realities of
nature, but inwardly cherishes an intense belief in the personal
purport of the order of events, and earnestly seeks for a precise
explanation of individual happenings. "The chronic belief of
mankind," says Professor James, "that events may happen for the
sake of their personal significance is an abomination." It is this
chronic mental habit that broods upon the problem of subjective
experiences, and is ready to recognize in signs and omens the guiding
principle of rationality; not that this is always done designedly and
superstitiously, but the underlying bent obscures the consideration
of experience in any other than a personal light, and obstructs that
illumination of the concrete by the generic, which constitutes an
indispensable factor in the growth of wholesome thought. The victim
of this unfortunate habit will remain logically unfit to survive the
struggle against the occult. Only in so far as he succeeds in getting
away from his personal perspective will he be able to appreciate
the true status of the problem which enlists his interest. Above
all is it necessary to subordinate explicit individual explanations
to the general illumination of well-established principles. It may
be interesting to note that the partaking of mince-pie at evening
induces bad dreams, but it is hardly profitable to speculate deeply
why my dream took the form of a leering demon with the impolite habit
of squatting on my chest. The stuff that dreams are made of is not
susceptible of that type of analysis. The most generous allowance
must be made for coincidences and irrelevancies, and it must be
constantly remembered that the obscure phenomena of psychology,
and, indeed, the phenomena of more thoroughly established and
intrinsically more definite sciences, cannot be expected to pass
the test of detailed and concrete combinations of circumstances. In
other classes of knowledge the temptation to demand such explicit
explanations of observations and experiences is not so strong,
because of the absence of an equally strong personal interest; but
clearly this does not affect the logical status of the problem.

The reply to this argument I can readily anticipate; and I confess
that my admiration of Hamlet is somewhat dulled by reason of that
ill-advised remark to Horatio about there being more things in heaven
and earth than are dreamt of in our philosophies. The occultist
always seizes upon that citation to refute the scientist. He prints
it as his motto on his books and journals, and regards it as a slow
poison that will in time effect the destruction of the rabble of
scientists, and reveal the truth of his own Psycho-Harmonic Science
or Heliocentric Astrology. It is one thing to be open-minded, and to
realize the incompleteness of scientific knowledge, and to appreciate
how often what was ignored by one generation has become the science
of the next; and it is a very different thing to be impressed with
coincidences and dreams and premonitions, and to regard them as
giving the keynote to the conceptions of nature and reality, and
to look upon science as a misdirected effort. Such differences of
attitude depend frequently upon a difference of temperament as well
as upon intellectual discernment. The man or the woman who flies to
the things not dreamt of in our philosophy quite commonly does not
understand the things which our philosophy very creditably explains.
The two types of mind are different, and, as Professor James
expresses it, "the scientific-academic mind and the feminine-mystical
mind shy from each other's facts just as they fly from each other's
temper and spirit."

Certain special influences combine with these fundamental differences
of attitude to favor the spread of belief in the occult; and of these
the character of the beliefs as of the believers furnishes some
evidence. At various stages of the discussion I have referred to
the deceptive nature of the argument by analogy; to the dominating
sympathy with a conclusion, and the resulting assimilation and
overestimation of apparent evidence in its favor; to the frequent
failure to understand that the formation of valid opinion and the
interpretation of evidence in any field of inquiry require somewhat
of expert training and special aptitude, obviously so in technical
matters, but only moderately less so in matters misleadingly
regarded as general; to bias and superstition, to the weakness
that bends easily to the influences of contagion, to unfortunate
educational limitations and perversions, and, not the least, to a
defective grounding in the nature of scientific fact and proof.
The mystery attaching to the behavior of the magnet led Mesmer
to call his curative influence "animal magnetism,"--a conception
that still prevails among latter-day occultists. The principle of
sympathetic vibration, in obedience to which a tuning-fork takes up
the vibrations of another in unison with it, is violently transferred
to imaginary brain vibrations and to still more imaginary telepathic
currents. The X-ray and wireless telegraphy are certain to be
utilized in corroboration of unproven modes of mental action, and
will be regarded as furnishing the key to clairvoyance and rapport;
just as well-known electrical phenomena have given rise to the
notions of positive and negative temperaments and mediumistic polar
attraction and repulsion. All this results from the unwarranted
and absurd application of analogies; for analogies, even when
appropriate, are little more than suggestive or corroborative of
relations or conceptions which owe their main support to other and
more sturdy evidence. Analogy under careful supervision may make a
useful apprentice, but endless havoc results when the servant plays
the part of the master.

No better illustrations could be desired of the effects of mental
prepossession and the resulting distortion of evidence and of logical
insight than those afforded by the career of Spiritualism and that
of Christian Science. In both these movements the assimilation
of a religious trend has been of inestimable importance to their
dissemination. Surely it is not merely or mainly the evidences
obtainable in the séance chamber, nor the irresistible accumulation
of cures by argument and thought-healings, that account for the
organized gatherings of Spiritualists and the costly temples and
thriving congregations of Christ Scientist. It is the presentation
of a practical doctrine of immortality and of the spiritual nature
of disease in conjunction with an accepted religious system, that
is responsible for these vast results. The "Key to the Scriptures"
has immeasurably reinforced the "Science and Health," and brought
believers to a new form of Christianity who never would have
been converted to a new system of medicine presented on purely
intellectual grounds. Rationality is doubtless a characteristic
tendency of humanity, but logicality is an acquired possession,
and one by no means firmly established in the race at large. So
long as we are reproved by the discipline of nature, and that
rather promptly, we tend to act in accordance with the established
relations of things; that is rationality. But the recognition of
the more remote connections between antecedent and consequent, and
the development of habits of thought which shall lead to reliable
conclusions in complex situations; and again, the ability to
distinguish between the plausible and the true, the firmness to
support principle in the face of paradox and seeming nonconformity,
to think clearly and consistently in the absence of the practical
reproof of nature--that is logicality. It is only as the result
of a prolonged and conscientious training, aided by an extensive
experience and by a knowledge of the historical experience of the
race, that the inherent rational tendencies develop into established
logical habits and principles of belief. For many this development
remains stunted or arrested; and they continue as children of a
larger growth, leaning much on others, rarely venturing abroad alone,
and wisely confining their excursions to familiar ground. When they
become possessed with the desire to travel among other cultures,
their lack of appreciation of the sights which their journeys bring
before them gives to their reports the same degree of reliability and
value as attaches to the much ridiculed comments of the philistine
_nouveaux riches_.

The survey of the modern occult makes it seem quite utopian to look
forward to the day when the occult shall have disappeared, and the
lion and the lamb shall feed and grow strong on the same nourishment.
Doubtless new forms and phases of the occult will arise to take
the place of the old as their popularity declines; and the world
will be the more interesting and more characteristically a human
dwelling-place for containing all sorts and conditions of minds. None
the less, it is the plain duty and privilege of each generation to
utilize every opportunity to dispel error and superstition, and to
oppose the dissemination of irrational beliefs. It is particularly
the obligation of the torch-bearers of science to illuminate the
path of progress, and to transmit the light to their successors with
undiminished power and brilliancy; the flame must burn both as a
beacon-light to guide the wayfarer along the highways of advance, and
as a warning against the will-o'-the-wisps that shine seductively in
the by-ways. The safest and most efficient antidote to the spread
of the pernicious tendencies inherent in the occult lies in the
cultivation of a wholesome and whole-souled interest in the genuine
and profitable problems of nature and of life, and in the cultivation
with it of a steadfast adherence to common sense, that results in
a right perspective of the significance and value of things. These
qualities, fortunately for our forefathers, were not reserved to
be the exclusive prerogative of the modern; and, fortunately for
posterity, are likely to remain characteristic of the scientific and
antagonistic to the occult.


[1] Spiritualism is here considered only in its general bearings upon
modern conceptions of the occult; any consideration of the special
phenomena presented under its auspices or of the influences which
contribute to a belief in its tenets would lead too far afield. The
topic is separately considered from a different point of view in a
later essay.

[2] 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.



The division of the sciences reflects the diversity of human
interests; it represents the economical adaptation of organized
thought to the conditions of reality; and it likewise recognizes the
intrinsically and objectively distinct realms and aspects, in which
and under which phenomena occur. It is obvious that the sciences
were shaped by human needs; that physics and chemistry and geology
and biology and psychology do not constitute independent departments
of nature's régime, but only so many aspects of complex natural
activities; that a cross-section of the composite happenings of a
cosmic moment would reveal an endlessly heterogeneous concomitance of
diverse forms of energy acting upon diverse types of material; that,
as we confine our attention somewhat arbitrarily to one or another
component of the aggregate, we become physicists, or chemists, or
geologists, or biologists, or psychologists; that, indeed, Nature is
all things to all men. There is, furthermore, a community of spirit
between the several sciences, as there is a logical unity of method
and purpose within the realm of each. However ignorant they may be
of one another's facts, the chemist and the psychologist readily
appreciate one another's purposes, and find a bond of sympathy in the
pursuit of a commonly inspired though differently applied method.
The search for objective truth, the extension of the realm of law
and regularity, the expansion and organization of the army of facts
constantly marshaled and reviewed and made ready for service, the
ever widening development of principles and the furthering of a
deeper insight into their significance,--these are ideals for the
advancement of science, far easier of expression than of execution,
but the clear and accepted formulation of which itself attests a
highly developed stage of accurate thought. A clear-cut conception of
the purposes and methods of scientific investigation and of the scope
of the several sciences is a dearly bought product of generations of
well-directed, as also of misdirected, effort. The path of progress
leading to this achievement has been tortuous and indirect; there
has been much expenditure of energy that resulted merely in marking
time, in going through the movements of locomotion but with no
advance, in following a false trail, or, through a loss of the sense
of direction, in coming back after a circuitous march to an earlier
starting-point. It is easy, when a certain height is reached, to
look down and back, and see how much more readily the ascent might
have been accomplished; but it is a very different matter to form a
successful plan for attaining the next higher commanding point. It is
inevitable that there shall be differences of opinion as to course
and manœuvre, and errors of judgment of commission and omission; but
such diversity is quite consistent with an underlying coöperation
and singleness of purpose. It is in the inspiration and in the
execution of that purpose that science becomes differentiated from
the unscientific and non-scientific.

Between the organized effort and well-recognized plan of action of
science and the chaotic movements of the untutored mind, there is a
marked contrast. The savage, like the child, constantly meets with
the unexpected; every experience lying outside his narrow beaten
track stirs him with a shock and often fills him with fear--the
handmaid of ignorance. He is apt to picture nature as a fearful
monster, and to people the world with tyrannical beings. Step by
step the region of the known expands, and suggests the nature of the
unknown; men expect, they foresee, they predict. The apparent chaos
of mutually inimical forces gives way to the profound harmony of
unifying law. And yet the unknown and the borderland that separates
it from the known are always near by, to tempt curiosity and the
spirit of adventure.

The problem here to be considered relates to the attitude which may
most properly and profitably be taken with regard to the outlying
phenomena of the mind. Are they outcasts, to be treated in a spirit
of charity and forbearance? Are they the true owners of the land,
driven off, like the Indian before the white man, by the relentless
march of civilization to a prescribed reservation? Are they the
unjustly deposed and rightful heirs, soon to be restored to their
kingdom by a fairer and more searching examination of their title? Or
are they, gypsy-like, of obscure origin, surviving in a civilization
which they are in but not of, attempting to eke out an uncertain
existence by peddling relics of antiquated lore to the curious and
the credulous?


The current usage of the term "Psychical Research" takes its meaning
from the Society for Psychical Research, founded in England in
1882. The original programme of the society involved a systematic
investigation of "that large group of debatable phenomena designated
by such terms as mesmeric, psychical, and Spiritualistic." "From the
recorded testimony of many competent witnesses," it is urged, "there
appears to be, amidst much delusion and deception, an important
body of remarkable phenomena, which are _prima facie_ inexplicable
on any generally recognized hypothesis, and which, if incontestably
established, would be of the highest possible value." The work
of investigation of these "residual phenomena" was intrusted to
six committees, who were to inquire severally into "the nature
and extent of any influence which may be exerted by one mind upon
another, apart from any generally recognized mode of perception;"
into hypnotism, the so-called mesmeric trance, clairvoyance, and
other allied phenomena; to undertake a revision of Reichenbach's
researches with reference to discovering whether his "sensitives"
possessed "any power of perception beyond a highly exalted
sensibility of the recognized sensory organs;" to investigate the
reports of apparitions at the moment of death, and of houses reputed
to be haunted; to inquire into the causes and general laws of the
phenomena of Spiritualism; and to collect material relative to the
history of these subjects. It is the investigation of these topics
from the point of view prevalent in the publications of this Society
that constitutes the definition of Psychical Research. This phrase,
which has come into prominence within less than a score of years,
has no simple or familiar synonym; it must not be interpreted by the
combined connotation of its component words, but must be accepted as
the technical equivalent of the trend and content of a certain type
of investigation of obscure phenomena or alleged phenomena, in most
of which psychological factors are prominent.

If the term may at all be brought within the circle of the sciences,
it certainly there assumes a somewhat unique position. It naturally
becomes the analogue, or it may be the rival of Psychology; yet its
precise status and its logical relations to other departments of
scientific research are far from obvious. The modern conception of
Psychology is generously comprehensive; it encompasses the endlessly
variable and complex processes of human mentality; it pursues with
enthusiasm the study of developmental processes of intelligence in
childhood, in the animal world, in the unfoldment of the race; it
studies, for their own value, the aberrant and pathological forms
of mental action, and brings these into relation with, and thus
illuminates the comprehension of the normal. It forms affiliations
with physiology and biology and medicine, with philosophy and logic
and ethics, with anthropology and sociology and folk-lore; it borrows
freely from their materials, and attempts to interpret the materials
thus borrowed from the psychological point of view and to infuse into
them its distinctive spirit. Surely Psychical Research should be able
to find a nook in so commodious a home; if the problems of Psychical
Research are legitimate members of the psychological family, some
provision should be possible for their reception within the old
homestead. Nor does this group of problems represent a difference of
school, in some such way as the homœopathists represent a secession
from the regular school of medicine; nor can it be regarded as the
special study of the unusual and the abnormal in the sphere of mind,
and thus stand in the relation which teratology or pathology bears
to physiology and anatomy: for in that event it would constitute
a simple division of Abnormal Psychology, and although Psychical
Research has close alliance with the latter, it cannot be, and is
unwilling to be regarded as a subordinate portion of that domain.

From a survey of the literature of Psychical Research one might
readily draw the inference that whereas Psychology studies the
recognized and explicable phases of mental phenomena, Psychical
Research is occupied with the disputed and mysterious. One might also
conclude that whereas Psychology is concerned with the phenomena
commonly associated with mental activities and their variation
under normal as also under unusual and pathological circumstances,
Psychical Research is interested in the demonstration of supernormal
faculties, and in the establishment of forms of mentality that
diverge from and transcend those with which every-day humanity
is permitted to become familiar; and that, moreover, in some of
its excursions Psychical Research does not limit itself to mental
manifestations, but investigates undiscovered forms of physical
energy, and seriously considers whether behind and beyond the world
of phenomena there is another and a different world, in which the
established order and the mental and material laws of this planet
do not obtain. But the unwarranted character, not to say absurdity,
of such a differentiation or classification is at once apparent,
if we attempt to carry it over into other departments of science.
Speculations in regard to the constitution of the earth's centre
or as to the future of our planet, if legitimate in character, are
as readily incorporable into geology as the consideration of more
definite and better known phenomena; biologists recognize that there
are mythical as well as anomalous portions of their domain, but do
not consider that freaks of nature either destroy the validity of
anatomical and physiological principles, or demand a totally distinct
and transcendent organization or method for their study. The chemist
may become interested in the examination of what was really done
when it was supposed that other metals were converted into gold; the
physicist may become interested in the applications of electricity
and magnetism, of optical reflections and images in the production
of stage illusions; but the conception of chemistry and of physics
naturally embraces considerations of the growth, the errors, and
the applications of these sciences. And while these comparisons
do not furnish a complete parallel to the relation that seems to
pertain between Psychology and Psychical Research, yet it is as
true in the one case as in the others, that the differentiation of
a group of problems on the basis of unusualness of occurrence, of
mysteriousness of origin, of doubtful authenticity, or of apparent
paradoxical or transcendent character, is as illogical as it is
unnecessary. The legitimate problems of Psychical Research are
equally and necessarily genuine problems of Psychology, that require
no special designation. They need not be especially important, nor
interesting, nor profitable, nor well comprehended problems of
Psychology, but they belong there if they are scientific problems
at all. The objection to Psychical Research is not a verbal one;
it is an objection to the separation of a class of problems from
their natural habitat, an objection to the violent transplanting
of a growth from its own environment. It is a protest against the
notion that while the psychologist may be listened to with respect
and authority in one portion of his topic, the layman and the member
of the Society for Psychical Research are equally or more competent
to pronounce judgments in a closely allied field. It is a protest
against the view that for the comprehension of such processes as
sensation and perception a course in Psychology may be useful, but
that telepathy may be established by any moderately intelligent but
not specially informed percipient and agent; or that the study of
hallucinations is indeed a complex and difficult subject, but haunted
houses, and phantasms of the living, offer a proper occupation for a
leisure hour. All this is wrong and absurd; and yet it is hardly an
exaggeration to declare that a majority of those who profess a deep
interest in, and express an opinion about the one group of topics,
would be surprised to have demanded of them a familiarity with the
data of Psychology as a prerequisite to an intelligent coöperation in
Psychical Research. If the problems of Psychical Research, or that
portion of the problems in which investigation seems profitable, are
ever to be illuminated and exhibited in an intelligible form, it
will only come about when they are investigated by the same methods
and in the same spirit as are other psychological problems, when
they are studied in connection with and as a part of other general
problems of normal and abnormal Psychology. Whether this is done
under the auspices of a society or in the psychological laboratories
of universities is, of course, a detail of no importance. It is
important, however, what the trend, and the spirit, and the method,
and the purpose of the investigation may be; as it is equally
important, what may be the training, and the capabilities, and
the resources, and the originality, and the scholarship of the

Is the "psychical researcher" then merely a psychologist gone astray?
Is he a mere dilettante, an amateur collector of curious specimens,
or is he something very different from a psychologist? He is
doubtless one or the other or all of these. He may be a psychologist
in the truest and best sense of the word; and as all psychologists
have their special interests, so his may be centred in the group of
phenomena which have been unwisely separated from their _milieu_, and
have been inaptly termed "Psychical Research." I am ready not only to
admit but to emphasize that a considerable portion of the influential
contributors to Psychical Research are animated by as truly
scientific motives, and carry on their work with as much devotion
and ability, with as careful a logical acumen, with as shrewd
comprehension of the dangers and difficulties of their topic, as
characterize the labors of any other field of psychological endeavor.
But this statement can by no means be extended to all; nor does it
at all militate against the opinion that many of those to whom it
does apply, subscribe to illogical and pernicious conclusions, and
indirectly encourage a most unfortunate attitude in others.


Approaching the matter next from a descriptive point of view, it
becomes pertinent to inquire what are the actual interests which
give vitality to Psychical Research, which support the investigator
in his laborious and tedious collection and compilation of cases,
which provide the membership for the Society for Psychical Research,
and the still wider circle of interested readers, which induce so
many correspondents to record long and painstaking accounts of
their peculiar "psychical" experiences, which make the discussion
of these matters a favorite topic of conversation. That these
interests are diverse is obvious; yet they fall naturally into a
few groups or types, of which the occult interest is probably the
most widespread. This, in its pronounced form, proceeds upon a
suppressed or acknowledged conviction that the world which science
reveals is but a torso of reality; that its very head--that which
gives significance and expression to the whole--may be missing,
and can only be restored from isolated fragments, themselves to be
found by rare good fortune. The key to the riddle of existence is
to be sought in the personal significance of events; in moments of
great stress and strain, in critical emergencies when communication
between individuals deeply concerned must be established though the
heavens fall, it is claimed that the heavens _do_ occasionally
fall, that the laws of earth are transcended, and the phantasms of
the dying are telepathically wafted to the sentient consciousness
of the interested kinsman or friend. Apparitions and presentiments
are interpreted as mystic symbols of the order of events, which cast
their shadows before or coincidently with them. The intelligence of
the departed, likewise, is discerned in these manifestations; and
through haunted houses and séance chambers, through the inspired
utterances of entranced mediums, messages are revealed that indicate
conclusively the impossibility of their transmission through ordinary
channels, or, it may be, their unmistakable "spiritual" origin. The
supernormal, transcendent, undiscovered world of the occult shines
through, though fitfully and visible only to those who have eyes to
see, the commonplace, constrained phenomena of earth-bound reality.
Variable as may be the formulation and trend of this interest,
yet in some form this suspicion or quasi-belief (for which the
term "occult" seems appropriate) that there are things undreamt of
in our philosophy, that these residual phenomena are profoundly
significant and afford a glimpse of the great unknown, as well as of
the fallibility and the poverty of scientific conceptions, furnishes
a very considerable _clientèle_ of Psychical Research. The why
and wherefore of this inclination need not here be discussed; its
prevalence is unmistakable. And though it appears now in a crude
and superstitious guise, and again in a more refined and critical
attitude, and more rarely is unwillingly assumed as the only possible
alternative in the face of striking personal and other evidence, yet
there is a sufficient community of belief in these several positions
to warrant their inclusion in a common though variable type. As
applied to Psychical Research, it is important neither to generalize
from the worst nor from the best expressions of this occult interest,
but to appreciate its range of distribution amid the diversity of
temperament and endowment.

As the occult interest recedes to an obscure position in the
background, and as the foreground and middle distance come to be
suffused with the light of critical discernment and of the scientific
spirit of inquiry, the "psychical researcher" approximates to the
psychological point of view. This essentially psychological interest
is necessarily a strong one in some of the distinctive problems
of Psychical Research, and often mingles with other interests to
form a curious composite. It may be a morbid, an uninformed, a
misguided, a dilettante interest, but its psychological character
may be noted without implication of any further comment of
approval or disapproval. Favorably interpreted, this psychological
interest is an interest in the intrinsic nature and analysis of
mental processes,--an interest in tracing the various threads that
compose the twisted strands of consciousness, in following the
kaleidoscopic transformations wrought by attention and association,
in observing the play of habit, the subtle processes of illusion and
misinterpretation, the unexpected intrusion of the subconscious,
and likewise in the pursuit of these as exemplified in concrete
instances; among others, in such alleged phenomena as are commonly
described as "mesmeric, psychical, and Spiritualistic."

While this interest may be combined with the occult interest, the
two are not really congenial and are in essence antagonistic. We are
all rational only in spots; and many a "psychical researcher" pursues
some of his investigations under the guidance of a scientifically
psychological interest, while in other directions the occult interest
takes the helm. The analysis of the contrast between the two may be
helpful in realizing more fully the divergences of Psychology and
Psychical Research. The "psychical researcher" wishes to prove or
to disprove something; with regard to this or that phenomenon he
wishes to know "what there is in it," and is accordingly attracted to
phenomena which seem to have something mysterious in them. As soon as
he succeeds in finding a consistent and commonplace explanation for
a group of phenomena, his main curiosity is satisfied, and he takes
to pastures new. When once he has shown that theosophic marvels are
the result of trickery and collusion, then the physical appearances
of Theosophy have been _explained_. It has been demonstrated that
there is "nothing in them," that is, nothing transcendental. The
verdict is given, and the court passes on to the next case. But the
psychologist's interest in how Mme. Blavatsky performed her astral
manifestations was always a very subordinate and incidental one; the
logical scientist, whether he happened to be physicist or biologist
or psychologist, was quite convinced that Mme. Blavatsky had not
discovered the means of carrying ponderables by unseen agencies
from "China to Peru" (which, by the way, would, if possible, be a
matter for the physicist and not at all for the psychologist to
investigate), any more than she had been able to discover the secret
of immortality (which would in turn be a biological discovery), or
had been able to leave her body in New York, while her "astral" soul
inspected what was going on in India (which might indeed be regarded
as a psychological feat). The psychological problem of Theosophy, so
far as there is one, is of a different type; it takes up the inquiry
as to how such marvelous pretensions come to be believed, by what
influences conviction is formed and doctrines spread. It contributes
an incident or an apt illustration to the psychology of belief, or to
the social psychology of contagion. The psychologist is interested
in the illustration which such a movement affords of the action of
certain mental processes and influences; and his interest persists,
whether there is presumably "something in it," or not. The resulting
difference in attitude between the psychologist and the "psychical
researcher" is indeed fundamental, and even more so in principle than
in practical issue.

It is desirable but not easy to find parallel illustrations of this
difference in attitude in other than psychological discussions; but
perhaps the following may be pertinent. If the widespread interest in
the North Pole were merely that in the possibility of its furnishing
the key to the mystery of the northward-turning magnet, and were at
once to disappear upon the removal of the mystery, such an interest
would be quite parallel to that of the "psychic researcher;" but the
interest of the true physicist in any physical phenomenon which in
the future may be demonstrated to exist at the North Pole would be a
persistent one, and one depending for its value on the illustration
thus revealed, not of mystery but of recognized physical principles.
Furthermore, be it observed that however valuable may be the physical
facts obtainable by a polar expedition, there is no overwhelming
obligation resting upon every physicist to desert his laboratory and
embark for the farthest north; but that such expeditions are decided
by considerations of general interest, expediency, and importance.
There is no obligation resting upon the physicist any more than
upon the psychologist to make large sacrifices for the pursuit of
ill-defined residual phenomena, and certainly not for the refutal of
far-fetched theories and suggested supernatural notions. Physicist
and psychologist alike contribute most to the advancement of their
science by an open-minded but systematic pursuit of definite,
significant, and logically fashioned problems.

Let it not be inferred from the emphasis placed upon this contrast
that Psychical Research is in itself to be condemned or to be
regarded as useless. Not at all; only in many aspects it is not
psychological, and the psychologist is under no obligation to find an
interest in, nor to occupy himself with, this aspect of things, if
his general trend does not happen to point that way. The physicist
may be called upon with equal propriety to aid in many inquiries
which the Society for Psychical Research has undertaken. Among
the early records of the Society appears an account of a man who
presented himself with an iron ring on his arm, far too small to have
been slipped over his hand, and who seemed to imply that possibly the
spirits put it there, or that it came on through some supernatural
agency. This was regarded as a proper case for the Society for
Psychical Research to examine. If it could have been demonstrated
that the ring reached its position through the exercise of the will
of some living persons or spirits, the phenomenon, I suppose, would
in some sense be psychological; if it were demonstrated that it
came transported through the fourth dimension of space, it might be
termed physical. But in reality it was probably physiological, for
there was evidence that it was by the effects of etherization that
the hand was contracted and that the ring was forced over it. Surely
it is most absurd to designate such an inquiry, however interesting
and proper it may be regarded, Psychical Research. It certainly is
a highly commendable function for a society to take upon itself
the investigation of such claims as theosophy or spiritualism put
forward, whenever movements of this type are likely to develop into
psychic epidemics or to prove a social menace. Any authoritative body
that will exhibit the absurdity of such claims, and expose the true
_modus operandi_ of the manifestations, will perform an important
civic function. Such a function was performed by the Royal Commission
of 1784, in exposing the vain pretensions and the insidious dangers
of animal magnetism; Mr. Hodgson's investigations of theosophy, the
Seybert Commission's report on spiritualism, are both able and useful
contributions of the same type; and, at present, an authoritative
statement regarding the theoretical absurdity and the practical
dangers of Christian Science might prove efficacious. Such special
investigations represent the practical application of science to
concrete conditions and problems; they are woefully misnamed, and
their significance is likely to be misinterpreted, when they are
presented as Psychical Research, and are grouped along with other
problems of a totally different nature.

I shall next touch briefly upon other diverse yet allied interests
in Psychical Research, which may serve to illustrate further the
various avenues of approach to this heterogeneous group of problems.
I shall speak of these as the explanatory, the investigative, and
the anthropological interests. The first is satisfied with finding
out how alleged marvels are really performed; it takes up the
physical phenomena of spiritualism or theosophy; it investigates
conjuring tricks; it discovers the origin of noises in haunted
houses; it ferrets out the means whereby mediums obtain knowledge
of their sitters' private affairs. This is proper work for experts
in prestidigitation and for detectives,--not for all such, for to
be successful, the conjurer and the detective must have special
knowledge and fitness for this branch of the trade. While the
facts thus gathered may be useful as illustrative material to the
psychologist, they form no essential part of his profession; nor is
there any special reason why he should be best suited to determine
the technical _modus operandi_ of such manifestations. That some
psychologists with a strong interest in this type of phenomena might
properly coöperate in such an investigation, if they chose, is too
obvious to merit remark; but to trace out and expose trickery cannot
be imposed upon the burdensome duties of the psychologist.

With a certain type of "psychical researcher" this explanatory
interest is the dominant one; and by dispelling error and replacing
false notions by true ones he may perform a useful service to
the community. The explanatory interest is quite certain to be
supplemented by the investigative, and that because the latter soon
becomes necessary to the former. While the one is concerned with the
explanation and description of the actual marvels accomplished, the
other must consider also what is reported and what is believed to
have been accomplished. The mechanism of a trick, whether brought
forward as evidence of spiritualism or not, when clearly exhibited,
explains the trick; a loose board under the roof, or the reflection
from a lustrous surface, may at once reveal how mysterious noises
and lights were really produced. But one must go farther to account
for the recognition of relatives in the form of the medium covered
with flimsy drapery, for the automatic spelling out of messages,
or for the successes of guessing experiments. These two interests
thus proceed hand in hand and furnish valuable material which the
psychologist is ready to interpret and to utilize; for the study
of how false beliefs spread, of how deception proceeds, teems with
points of psychological significance. This, however, is by no means
a unique characteristic of Psychical Research; there are also
interesting psychological points in such diverse occupations as the
actor's profession, in juggling and tricks of skill, in advertising,
in religions revivals, etc. It is highly desirable that the materials
thus gathered should be psychologically utilized, and it is equally
desirable that such material should be collected. Many valuable
studies in Psychical Research, which owe their origin not to a
truly psychological interest but to this general explanatory and
investigative interest, have incidentally brought to light material
of great suggestiveness for the psychologist, and material which
quite possibly would not otherwise have been discovered. I am more
than willing to contribute whatever I can to the maintenance of a
Coöperative Psychological Investigation Society which shall stand
ready to take up the investigation of any phenomena which promise
to yield data of psychological interest; which shall, however, keep
far removed from any phase of the transcendental or the occult;
which shall not feel itself under any obligation to _disprove_
any improbable or absurd hypothesis which this or that seeker for
notoriety may choose to put forward; which shall not be dominated
merely by the spirit of finding out whether there is "anything in"
one movement or another, but will simply stand ready to supplement
the work of the academic laboratories by undertaking, in the same
spirit, a special form of investigation, which, under existing
circumstances, such laboratories or their individual directors cannot
expediently undertake.

The anthropological interest, above referred to, is to my mind a
most valid one, and is best represented in Mr. Andrew Lang's volume,
"Cock Lane and Common Sense." Mr. Lang there examines the stories
of ghosts and apparitions, and clairvoyance, and spiritual knocks
and raps, and strange influences, and haunted places, not at all
for determining how little or how much these things are true, but
how they come to be believed in. How is it that the same tale is
told, the same powers credited, the same manifestations produced,
in evidence of the supernatural? In savage as well as in ancient
magic, in the stories current in former centuries as well as in our
own day and generation, there is a pronounced generic similarity.
There is certainly as strong an interest in the investigation of the
growth and distribution of these beliefs as of the other clusters
of belief which anthropology and folk-lore consider. And, moreover,
recently acquired knowledge of hypnotic and automatic phenomena, of
hyperæsthesia and nervous disease, shed much light on the obscure
tales of the past, and assist the comprehension of how such beliefs
could have originated. In brief, Mr. Lang outlines the programme for
a "Comparative Psychical Research," and tells us that "we follow the
stream of fable, as we track a burn to its head, and it leads us
into shy and strange scenes of human life, haunted by very fearful
wild fowl, and rarely visited, save by the credulous. There may be
entertainment here, and, to the student of his species, there may
be instruction." Part of the instruction will consist in gaining an
increased familiarity with the psychological conditions which produce
and foster these narratives and beliefs, and with their social and
traditional significance; in concluding, with Mr. Lang, "that the
psychological conditions which begat the ancient narratives produce
the new legends."


Thus far, our attention has been centred upon the _tendenz_, the
basis of interest, and the affiliations of Psychical Research.
It will be well to turn to a consideration of the content of the
problems. Inasmuch as the term represents a convenient but arbitrary
designation of a heterogeneous group of phenomena, we are prepared
to find that the data of the several problems thus collected
will be as diverse as their methods of study. We may begin with
the group of problems which might properly be considered in the
chapter of Abnormal Psychology that is devoted to the milder forms
of aberrant or unusual mental phenomena. The study of hypnotism
occupies a prominent place in Psychology and in Psychical Research.
The remarkable exhibitions of extreme suggestibility, particularly
the hyperæsthesia thus inducible, and again the illumination of
the subconscious thereby effected, have brought about a realizing
sense of how fearfully and wonderfully we are made. Between savage
priest and doctor, and Delphic oracle, and mediæval ascetic, and
magnetic somnambule, and inspirational medium, there is an irregular
connection in their entrance into a trance-like condition involving a
readjustment of the strata of consciousness and of the distribution
of authority in the hierarchy of the nervous centres. This was and
remains one of the gateways to the land of marvel and mystery. The
importance of hypnotism in Psychology is in its use, both as a method
of exhibiting the relations of processes not otherwise accessible
to experiment, and as a demonstration of the actual possibilities
of suggestion in health and disease. The hypnotic phenomena are
intrinsically interesting and valuable as contributions to the
natural history of mentality; the hypnotic method of study offers the
experimental psychologist the opportunity to apply his most potent
aid to research in precisely that field of inquiry in which the
experimental methods of ordinary consciousness are least available.

In this domain, the psychologist and the "psychical researcher"
proceed most amicably; and yet their purposes and points of view lead
them frequently to part company, although it may be only for a brief
_au revoir_. When the "psychical researcher" leaves the main highway
to track a possible "telepathic" hypnotic subject, or one who, while
hypnotized, is sensitive to the magnetic current, or who experiences
the characteristic effects of drugs applied in sealed vials to the
back of the neck, or who falls into the hypnotic condition when
handling a "magnetized" doll,--the psychologist is apt to decline the
invitation to join in the pursuit. I should advise him, however, to
go along for the sake of the excellent illustrations thus obtainable
of the effects of unconscious suggestion. From the time of the
first serious investigation of these phenomena up to the present,
unconscious suggestion has been one of the most potent influences
for the production of alleged marvels and pseudo-phenomena. All the
series of experiments brought forward at irregular intervals during
the past century to establish supernormal sensibilities have depended
for their apparent success (apart from trickery) upon unconscious
suggestion of the operators, combined with the shrewd assimilation
of the desired or expected result on the part of the subjects.
The transposition of the senses discovered by Pétetin (1787), the
hypnotized subjects who in Braid's day (1850) proved the location
of the phrenological organs by the appropriateness of their actions
when certain parts of the head were pressed, the sensitiveness to
magnets and hermetically sealed drugs brought forward by Reichenbach
(1845), and by Bourru and Burot (1885), and Dr. Luys's (1890)
absurd trifling with puppets, and probably, too, Charcot's sharp
differentiation of distinct hypnotic conditions (1882),--all furnish
illustrations of the subtle possibilities of unconscious suggestion.
Besides adorning an interesting psychological tale, they point a
moral to the intending investigator, and open his eyes to the extreme
caution necessary to exclude this source of error, and to realize the
ever-present possibility that, in spite of the sterilizing apparatus
and the other equipments of modern research, the germs of this
insidious form of delusion may have been unwittingly introduced.

The application of our knowledge of hypnotism to the explanation
of alleged supernormal and unusual sensibilities is particularly
interesting to the "psychical researcher"; the general enlargement
of our knowledge of these conditions, irrespective of such an
application, represents the aim of the psychologist. The latter may
indeed cite Mr. Lang's dictum that "science is only concerned with
truth, not with the mischievous inferences which people may draw from
truth," as an excuse for his own declination to coöperate in the
correction of such mischievous inferences. But the civic conscience
of the psychologist may convince him that the removal of error is
often an indispensable requisite to the dissemination of truth.

The study of the subconscious or the subliminal consciousness, of
multiple personality, of mental automatisms, of involuntary actions,
of induced visualizations, of sporadic hallucinations, may be cited
as further illustrations of topics interesting to the "psychical
researcher" for their bearings upon the apparent transcendence of
the normal, and to the psychologist for illustrations of important
groups of mental processes and relations. I must refer to the general
literature for descriptions of these several phenomena; the subtle
connection between one hypnotic condition and the next, bridging
over a period of normal consciousness with complete forgetfulness
of the hypnotic consciousness; the still more subtle evidence for
the latency of impressions thus revivable by an appeal to the
subconscious; the elaboration, in trance experiences, of these nether
world phenomena into organized personalities, which in the remarkable
case reported by Professor Flournoy expanded from a personification
of Marie Antoinette to that of a Martian revisiting Mars, describing
Martian scenery and customs, and writing in Martian language, and
again to the reincarnation of a Hindu princess of four centuries
ago; the affiliation of these cases to those of spontaneous loss
of personality in actual life, like that of the Rev. Ansel Bourne,
related by Professor James; the automatic writings performed by
hypnotic subjects and by persons in normal conditions; the power to
induce visions by "crystal gazing," and auditory hallucinations by
"shell-hearing"; the census of hallucinations, together with the
very important series of observations relative to the psychology
of deception,--these represent the more truly psychological
contributions of psychologists and "psychical researchers" to their
common domain.

The place which the explanation of spiritualistic and theosophic
manifestations occupies in Psychical Research has already been noted;
that of ghosts and rappings and haunted houses and _poltergeists_ is
quite similar. Not wholly yet measurably different is the status
of the study of hallucinations, presentiments, and previsions or
premonitions. In this entire group of phenomena, the interests of
Psychology and of Psychical Research are in the main distinct. This
is readily illustrated with reference to the study of hallucinations.
These are interesting to the psychologist quite in the same sense
as any other natural product of psycho-physiological action; the
prevalence of hallucinations under fairly normal conditions presents
one out of a large number of interesting details, and forms a proper
investigation for the Society for Psychical Research. Their census
of hallucinations hardly bears out the conclusions which have
been drawn therefrom, but contains much interesting information.
When, however, the emphasis of the investigation is placed upon
"veridical" hallucinations, and the establishment of the conclusion
that so many more of these hallucinations and presentiments "come
true," or have a mysterious significance, than chance would allow,
then the psychological interest is quite obscured by an interest
of a totally different character. A "veridical" hallucination has
little psychological pertinence; for it is equally interesting
psychologically whether it happens to come true or not. The bearing
of the hallucination upon or its origin in some of the occupations
of normal waking life; the possibility of its interpretation as
a peculiar retroactive illusion of memory, as Professor Royce
has suggested for some cases; its significance as an unconscious
perception of the shadow already present, not yet visible to
consciousness, but coming before the event,--such are significant
characteristics of hallucinations. The results of the study of
hallucinations may likewise be applied to a determination of their
relation to the sum total of the sequences of consciousness that
constitute our mental life; but there is only a most incidental
psychological interest in the apparently personally significant or
"veridical" aspect of the phenomena. And furthermore, whether they
are truly "veridical" or only seemingly so; whether, in other words,
there is evidence enough in quality and quantity to make it a proper
scientific inquiry as to the existence of a cause-and-effect-like
relation between presentiment and issue,--this is a logical inquiry,
although one which, along with other factors, includes psychological

We here naturally approach what has, on the whole, formed the most
conspicuous problem of Psychical Research--that associated with the
term "telepathy." It will contribute to clearness of distinction to
consider separately the question, whether the evidence accumulated
in any wise justifies the conclusion, that there exists a form of
communication occasionally going on between mind and mind apart
from the recognized channels of sensation. This, too, is a strictly
logical question, and is so presented in the following essay. We
are here concerned with the status of telepathy in its relation to
Psychology and Psychical Research; this it is possible to indicate
briefly. First, if there really exist this extra-normal, fitful
and occasional, uncertain and sporadic form of communication,
and if it can be conceived of in psychological terms, it forms
an interesting, possibly even a momentous contribution to our
knowledge of mental processes. In the present status of the alleged
conditions of operations of telepathy, it will hardly modify
seriously the direction or scope of the development of Psychology.
It being unnecessary to cross bridges before coming to them, it may
be sufficient to observe that up to the present there exists no
decided prospect either of the demonstration of the reality of this
process or of its psychological formulation; and far less either of
its inclusion within the science of Psychology, or of its practical
utilization. When the day comes when the incontestable establishment
of telepathy, as indeed of any totally novel contribution to
Psychology, shall require a revision of psychological principles,
Psychology will certainly have to be revised. What, then, many will
retort, can be more important for the psychologist than to devote
himself to the investigation of telepathy, to decide whether his
Psychology needs reconstruction or not? The answer is near at hand:
there is no obligation upon any science to reconstruct its basal
principles whenever it is suggested that these are incorrect or
inadequate. It is not the suggestion of their inadequacy that is
significant, but the concrete facts and evidence available to prove
their inadequacy. If a new view can establish itself by its logical
cogency and displace an accepted doctrine, if new facts, adequately
established, make necessary a revision of current generalizations,
no scientist and no science will protest. The present status of
telepathy is simply not a formidable candidate for this distinction.

That the evidence brought forward in proof of telepathy, similarly
to that adduced for "veridical hallucinations," is capable of
psychological interpretation, and also contains interesting
illustrations of obscure and subtle mental processes, becomes evident
to the discerning student, and merits an extended demonstration. It
is in the pursuit of such a demonstration that the psychologist turns
to the records of "phantasms of the living," and of experimental
thought-transference, thereby adding to an already significant and
extensive collection of material illustrative of the influences
of the undercurrents of thought-processes. Yet it is by no means
urged that this is the only phase of utility which the study of
telepathy holds out. That any one who is convinced of his ability to
demonstrate telepathy is free to follow his conviction, will not be
disputed; that in the course of his investigations he may succeed
in revealing the presence of unrecognized forms of mental action,
it would be mere dogmatism to deny. Two things, however, should be
clearly understood; the first, that his data cannot claim serious
attention before they are strong in their validity, and extensive
in their scope, and consistently significant in their structure;
then, and not before, are they ready for the crucible of scientific
logic, from which they may or may not emerge as standard metal,
to be stamped and circulated as accepted coin of the realm. The
second point relates to the status of the obligation to disprove the
telepathic position. This is more often a question of expediency than
of right. If the obligation can readily be discharged, it is usually
desirable to do so, for the reason that the removal of actual error
and misconception is often one of the methods of advancing science;
but there is no burden of disproof resting upon the scientist.


That the proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research
contain valuable material in creditable quantity is evident to
any unprejudiced reader; in many ways they are neither so bad nor
so good as they are painted to be. That "psychical researchers,"
though pursuing their labors with different motives, have in one
direction and another contributed to the advance of Psychology, I
have attempted to make clear. Furthermore, the activity of this
Society has been prominent in making the borderland of science
of to-day present a far more hopeful aspect than ever before. It
has substituted definiteness of statement, careful examination,
recognition of sources of error, close adherence to as carefully
authenticated fact as is attainable, for loose and extravagant
speculation, for bare assertion and obscuring irrelevancy. It has
made possible a scientific statement and a definiteness of conception
of problems, even where its proposed solution of them may be thought
misleading or inadequate. But in my opinion the debit side of the
ledger far outbalances the credit side. The influence which Psychical
Research has cast in favor of the occult, the enrollment under a
common protective authority of the credulous and the superstitious,
and the believers in mystery and in the personal significance of
things, is but one of the evils which must be laid at its door.
Equally pernicious is the distorted conception, which the prominence
of Psychical Research has scattered broadcast, of the purposes and
methods of Psychology. The status of that science has suffered, its
representatives have been misunderstood, its advancement has been
hampered, its appreciation by the public at large has been weakened
and wrongly estimated, by reason of the popularity of the unfortunate
aspects of Psychical Research, and of its confusion with them.
Whatever in the publications of Psychical Research 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
Psychical 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
almsgiving, it has the possibilities of affording relief and of
making paupers at the same time. Particularly by the unwarranted
acceptance of telepathy as a reality or as a working hypothesis, and
the still more unwarranted use of this highly hypothetical process
as a means of explaining more complex and obscure phenomena, has
it defeated one of the most important purposes which it might have

The popular as well as the more critical acceptance of Psychical
Research, both of the term and of the conceptions associated with
it, has disseminated a totally false estimate on the part of the
public at large of the scope and purposes of modern Psychology;
and has quite possibly given an unfortunate twist to the trend of
recent psychological thought. The right appreciation of scientific
aims and ideals by the intelligent and influential public has come
to be almost indispensable to the favorable advancement of science.
Psychology can less afford than many another science to dispense
with this helpful influence; and no science can remain unaffected by
persistent misinterpretation of its true end and aims. If Psychical
Research is to continue in its present temper, it becomes essential
to have it clearly understood just how far its purposes and spirit
are, and how much farther they are not, in accord with the purposes
and the spirit of Psychology. The optimistic psychologist anticipates
the day when he will no longer be regarded, either in high life or
in low life, as a collector of ghost stories or an investigator of
mediums. The disuse of the unfortunate term "Psychical Research," and
far more, the modification of the conceptions animating this type of
investigation, the pursuit of its more intrinsically psychological
problems in a more truly psychological spirit, and perhaps, most
of all, the disassociation of the term "Psychology" from the
undesirable and irrelevant connotations of Psychical Research, are
all consummations devoutly to be desired.


What will be pronounced strange or curious is largely determined by
the range and composition of the common body of knowledge to whose
laws and uniformities the phenomena in question apparently fail to
conform. What is passing strange to one generation may become easily
intelligible to the next. We all have eyes that see not for all but
a limited range of facts and views; and we unconsciously fill out
the blind-spots of our mental retinæ according to the habits and
acquisitions of the surrounding areas. We observe and record what
interests us; and this interest is in turn the outcome of a greater
or lesser endowment, knowledge, and training. A new observation
requires, as a rule, not a new sense-organ or an additional faculty,
nor even more powerful or novel apparatus, but an insight into
the significance of quite lowly and frequent things. Most of the
appearances of the earth's crust, which the modern geologist so
intelligently describes, were just as patent centuries ago as now;
what we have added is the body of knowledge that makes men look for
such facts and gives them a meaning. And although "the heir of all
the ages," we can hardly presume to have investigated more than a
modest portion of our potential inheritance; future generations
will doubtless acquire interests and points of view which will
enable them to fill some of the many gaps in our knowledge, to find
a meaning in what we perchance ignore or regard as trivial, and to
reduce to order and consistency what to us seems strange or curious
or unintelligible. And future generations, by virtue of a broader
perspective and a deeper insight, may give little heed to what we
look upon as significant,--much as we pronounce irrelevant and
superstitious the minute observances whereby primitive folk strive to
attract the good fortunes and to avoid the dangers of human existence.


The possibility of the transference of thought, apart from the
recognized channels of sensation, has been too frequently discussed,
with the suppressed or unconscious assumption that our knowledge
of the means whereby we ordinarily and normally, consciously and
unconsciously, convey to others some notion of what is passing in our
own minds, is comprehensive and exhaustive. Nothing could be farther
from the truth. Whenever a mode of perception, no matter how limited
or apparently trivial, has been thoroughly investigated, there have
been discovered, or at least suggested, unrecognized possibilities
of its use and development. And no result of experimental inquiry is
more constantly illustrated than the extent to which inferences from
sensations and the exercise of faculties may proceed without arousing
consciousness of their existence. Many color-blind persons remain
quite ignorant of their defect; and it was only after the description
of his own notable deficiencies by Dalton (in 1794) that the general
prevalence of color-blindness became recognized. The fact that a
portion of every one's retina is as blind as his finger-tip escaped
observation until about two centuries ago; and this because the
normal use of our eyes does not present the conditions of its easy
detection; and for a like reason we persistently refuse to see the
double images that are constantly formed upon our retinæ. With the
same unconsciousness that we receive sensations and draw inferences
from them, do we give to others indications of what is going on in
our minds, and read between their words and under their expressions
what "half reveals and half conceals the thoughts that lie within."
It is important to emphasize the serious limitations as yet attaching
to our knowledge of the detailed possibilities of normal perception
and inference, in order to realize the corresponding hesitancy with
which we should regard any series of facts, no matter how apparently
inexplicable, as evidence of a supernormal kind of mental telegraphy.

A further principle important in this connection, and one which is
likewise borne out by experimental inquiry, is the general similarity
in our mental machinery in matters great and small, and the resulting
frequency with which similar trains of thought may be carried on
by different persons as the outcome of similar but independent
brain-functioning. There is a natural tendency to exaggerate the
individuality of our own ways of thought and expression; and yet but
little reflection is necessary to suggest how easily this fond belief
may be at least partially delusive. In certain lines of thought,
such as mathematics, we should regard it as strange if two thinkers,
starting with the premises determined by the problem in hand, should
not reach the same conclusion; in others, such as economic or
political questions, we observe the preponderance of evidence in one
direction, and yet can appreciate the grounds of a contrary opinion;
and while in still other cases we regard the verdict as a matter of
taste or of individual preference, it may be questioned whether this
is so unmotived or lawless a process as is commonly assumed. While
we properly expect more mental community in certain lines than in
others, we have good grounds for believing that it exists everywhere
and only awaits the proper modes of investigation to reveal it in
its full extent and significance. With the marvelously increased
facilities for the dissemination and transportation of thought, the
range of such mental community is certain to be correspondingly
extended. Coincidences arising from the bringing together of widely
separated and apparently unrelated happenings are sure to multiply,
when the means of bringing them together are so vastly increased.
Each man's world is enlarged by the enlargement of the whole. It
becomes possible for him to come into relation with infinitely more
persons and events, and the resulting coincidences are nowadays more
likely to be noticed and recorded.

If we consider the logical ease with which the successful solution of
one portion of a problem suggests the next step; how imperceptibly
and yet effectively sentiments and points of view and the spirit
of the time are disseminated; how many persons there are in this
busily reflective era occupied with similar thoughts and schemes,
and how readily they may come into communication; how many are
anxiously studying the popular taste and demand to determine what
literary venture or mechanical invention is likely to be timely and
successful; how the possession of a common inheritance, patriotic
interests, education, literature, political arena, social usages,
newspaper intelligence, household conveniences, and the endless
everyday factors of our complex, richly detailed existence all
contribute to our common life,--shall we wonder that some two
or half a dozen intellects should give expression to similar
thoughts at nearly the same time? Would it not be infinitely more
wonderful if such coincidences did not constantly occur? In the more
original contributions to literature, science, and inventions, such
thought-correspondences should be rarer; and certainly this is true.
Contrast the number of striking similarities in the higher walks of
literature and science with those that occur in small inventions.
Hardly a day passes without the coincidence of two persons thinking
of devices for accomplishing the same purposes, so essentially
similar that patents could not be given to both. It is certainly not
difficult to understand why several different patterns of typewriting
machines should be invented nearly simultaneously, and it would
not be altogether mysterious if, at the first, two inventors had
independently reached the idea of a writing-machine at nearly the
same time. The experience of offering an article to an editor and
receiving a reply to the effect that another article dealing with a
similar topic in a similar way was already awaiting the compositor
is not unusual. It is true that these coincidences are of a minor
order, but it seems desirable to emphasize the frequency of these
minor forms in order to suggest the law-abiding character of the
rarer or the more striking forms; for this is just what the normal
distribution of such phenomena would lead us to expect.

It would be pleasant to believe that the application of the doctrine
of chances to problems of this character is quite generally
recognized; but this recognition is so often accompanied by the
feeling that the law very clearly applies to all cases but the
one that happens to be under discussion, that I fear the belief
is unwarranted. Moreover, the notion seems to prevail that these
coincidences should occur with equal frequency to all persons;
while, in fact, the law of probability provides for the most various
distribution among individuals. However, the attempt, and it may be
the sincere attempt, to apply proper conceptions of probability and
improbability to such problems often fails, because of an unfortunate
mental attitude which presents, with an outward acquiescence in
the objective view of the problem, an inward conviction in which
the subjective interpretation is really dominant; for this and
other reasons, this objective method of viewing the matter, however
pertinent, is not the most important.


One of the most deplorable attitudes towards the borderland phenomena
of which mental telegraphy or telepathy forms a type, is that which
insists upon an exact and detailed explanation of concrete personal
experiences, and regards these as so essentially peculiar that it
refuses to consider them in connection with the many other instances
of the same class, without reference to which a rational explanation
is unattainable. This tendency, to insist that the laws of science
shall be precisely and in detail applicable to individual experiences
possessing a personal interest for us, has wrought much havoc; it has
contributed to superstition, fostered pseudo-science, and encouraged
charlatanism. To antagonize this tendency it is necessary to insist
upon the statistical nature of the inquiry. We should certainly be
familiar in this statistic-filled age with the law-abiding character
of individual happenings when considered in large groups. So many
types of facts depending upon individual and heterogeneous motives
shoot together and form curves of surprising regularity; the number
of marriages or of misdirected letters, the falsification of ages or
the distribution of heights of individuals, and countless other items
that in individual cases seem accidental, or capricious, or due to
a host of minute and unaccountable factors, none the less present
a striking statistical regularity. The owners of a gaming-table,
counting upon the statistical regularity of the accidental, are
assured of a steady income; they are interested long enough to obtain
an extensive view of the fluctuations, and to see the law that guides
the whole. Not so the individual player; he is interested only in
that particular portion of the game in which his money is at stake.
He detects mysterious laws of fortune and freaks of luck; sees in a
series of coincidences or momentary successes the proofs of his pet
schemes, and dismisses the general doctrine of chances with disdain,
because it is not obviously applicable to his case. This influences
the losers as well as the winners; both are absorbed in their own
minute portions of the game, and forget that the law makes distinct
provision for temporary losses and gains, great and small, but is
as indifferent to the times and order of such occurrences as to the
personality of those affected.

The distinction between the individual and the statistical aspect of
a problem may be further illustrated in the much-discussed question
of the differences in brain characteristics of men and women.
When the claimants for woman's equality point to the acknowledged
inability of an anatomist to determine whether a particular brain
belonged to a man or a woman as conclusive evidence of their
contention, they unconsciously assume that the problem is capable
of determination in the individual specimen. A sounder logic would
insure greater caution. The differences in question may be certainly
established and typical, and yet depend upon statistical, not upon
individual data. Give the anatomist a goodly number of fairly
selected brains and tell him that all the women's brains are in
one group, and all the men's brains in another, and he will tell
you which group is feminine, which masculine; and this more than
offsets his failure in the former test. It establishes a statistical
regularity. Individually we may argue that many women of our
acquaintance have larger heads than the men; that the English, are
not taller than the French, because the Frenchmen we have chanced to
meet have been quite as tall as the Englishmen of our acquaintance;
that the laws of chance do not apply to the gaming-table, because
on that basis we should have come out even and not as losers; and
that coincidences cannot explain our strange mental experiences,
because they are altogether too peculiar and too frequent. It is only
in the most complete stages and in the more definite realms that
knowledge becomes applicable accurately and definitely to individual
cases. For the present it is well if, with such abstruse or rather
indefinite material, we can glimpse the statistical regularity of
the entire group of phenomena, trace here and there the possible or
probable application of general principles, and refuse to allow our
opinions to be disarranged by rather startling individual cases. The
explanation of these, however interesting they may be to ourselves
or entertaining to others, is not the test of our knowledge of the

I pick up a stone, and with a peculiar turn of the hand throw it from
me; probably no student of mechanics can exactly calculate the course
of that projectile,--nor is it worth while. What he can do is to show
what laws are obeyed by ideal projectiles, ideally thrown under ideal
conditions, and how far the more important practical cases tend to
agree with or diverge from these conditions. It is unfair to test his
science by its minute applicability to our special experiences.

When the problems involved in mental telegraphy come to be generally
viewed under the guidance of a sound logic, the outlook will be
hopeful that the whole domain will gradually acquire definite order;
and that its devotees, after appreciating the statistical regularity
of the phenomena, will come to the conclusion that much of the
energy and ability now expended in a search for the explanation of
complex and necessarily indefinite individual cases, is on the whole
unprofitable. With an infinite time and an infinite capacity it might
be profitable to study all things; but, at present, sanity consists
in the maintenance of a proper perspective of the relative importance
of the affairs of the intellectual and the practical life. It may
be that the man who puzzles day and night over some trivial mystery
expends as much brain energy as a great intellectual benefactor of
mankind; but the world does not equally cherish the two.


It becomes important in the further consideration of coincidences
to emphasize the great opportunity presented in their description
for error, for defective observation, for neglect of details,
for exaggeration of the degree of correspondence; and equally
demonstrable is the slight amount of such error or mal-observation
that is all-sufficient to convert a plain fact into a mystery.
Consider the disfigurement that a simple tale undergoes as it passes
from mouth to mouth; the forgetfulness of important details and the
introduction of imaginary ones, exhibited upon the witness stand; the
almost universal tendency to substitute inferences from sensations
and observations for the actual occurrences; and add to these the
striking results of experimental inquiry in this direction--for
example, the divergences between the accounts of sleight-of-hand
performances or spiritualistic séances and what really occurred--and
it becomes less difficult to understand why we so often fail to
apply general principles to individual cases. The cases cannot be
explained as they are recorded, because as recorded they do not
furnish the essential points upon which the explanation hinges. The
narrator may be confident that the points of the story are correctly
observed, that all the details are given; and yet this feeling of
confidence is by no means to be trusted. It is quite possible that
the points that would shed most light on the problem are too trivial
to attract attention; a slightly imperfect connection as effectively
breaks the circuit and cuts off the possibility of illumination as
a more serious disturbance. After the explanation is given or the
gap supplied or the break discovered, we often wonder how we could
have failed to detect the source of the mystery; but before we know
what to observe and what to record and what to be on our guard
against, the possibility of error is extremely great, far greater
than most of us would be willing to make allowance for; and the
strict demonstration as also the refutation of a proposed explanation
becomes correspondingly difficult.


I turn to another point, in some respects the most important of all;
I refer to the readiness with which we interpret as the remarkable
frequency of coincidences what is due to a strong interest in a given
direction. Inasmuch as we observe what interests us, a recently
acquired interest will lead to new observations--that is, new to
us, however familiar they may be to others. Take up the study of
almost any topic that appeals to human curiosity, and it takes no
prophet to predict that within a short time some portion of your
reading or your conversation, or some accidental information,
will unexpectedly reveal a bearing on the precise subject of your
study, often supplying a gap which it would have been most difficult
otherwise to fill; but surely this does not mean that all the world
has become telepathically aware of your needs and proceeded to attend
to them. Some years ago I became interested in cases of extreme
longevity, particularly of centenarianism, and for some months
every conversation seemed to lead to this topic, and every magazine
and newspaper offered some new item about old people. Nowadays
my interest is transferred to other themes; but the paragrapher
continues quite creditably to meet my present wants, and the
centenarians have vanished. When I am writing about coincidences, I
become keen to observe them; such for example as this: I was reading
for the second time an article on "Mental Telegraphy" (by Mark Twain
in "Harper's Monthly Magazine," December, 1891); I was occupied with
what is there described as a most wonderful coincidence, the nearly
simultaneous origination by the author and by Mr. William H. Wright
of a similar literary venture,--when I happened to take my eyes from
the page and saw on my desk a visiting-card bearing the name, "W. H.
Wright." It was not the same W. H. Wright, but a gentleman whom I had
met for the first time a few hours before, and have not seen since.
Had I not been especially interested in this article and its subject,
the identity of the names would certainly have escaped my attention,
and there would have been no coincidence to record. Quite apropos
both of coincidences and of their dependence upon personal interest,
I find recorded in a current magazine the experience of one who
became enthusiastically interested in thoroughbred cats: "Strangely
enough--for it is a thing which is recurrently strange--I, who had
rarely seen any printed matter relating to cats, now found the word
in every newspaper. Adopting a new interest is like starting a
snowball; as long as it moves, it gathers other particles to itself."

It is only necessary to become deeply interested in coincidences,
to look about with eyes open and eager to detect them, in order to
discover them on all sides; resolve to record all that come to hand,
and they seem to multiply until you can regard yourself and your
friends as providentially favored in this direction. If your calling
develops a taste for matters of this kind,--for example, if you are a
writer, with a keen sense for the literary possibilities and dramatic
effects of such coincidences, or if you are of an imaginative turn
of mind with a pronounced or a vague yearning for the interesting or
the unusual; if you have a more generous or more persistent endowment
of the day-dreaming, fantastic, self-dramatization of adolescence,
that is half unreal and yet half externalized in the vividness of
youthful fancy,--is it strange that you should meet with more of
these "psychic experiences" than your prosaic neighbor whose thoughts
and aspirations are turned to quite other channels, and to whom
an account of your experiences might even prove tiresome? If you
cultivate the habit of having presentiments, and of regarding them
as significant, is it strange that they should become more and more
frequent, and that among the many, some should be vaguely suggestive,
or even directly corroborative of actual occurrences?

The frequent coincidences, which form so influential a factor in
disseminating an inclination towards such an hypothesis as telepathy,
are doubtless largely the result of an interest in these experiences.
This interest is very natural and proper, and when estimated at its
true value is certainly harmless; it may indeed contribute material
worthy of record for the student of mental phenomena,--or it may
give spice to the matter-of-fact incidents of a workaday existence.
To many minds, however, the temptation to magnify this interest
into a significant portion of one's mental life, to invest it with
a serious power to shape belief and to guide conduct, is unusually
strong, in some cases almost irresistible. It is this tendency
that is essentially antagonistic to a logical view and therefore
to a scientific study of these irregular mental incidents; it is
this tendency that is responsible for much of the spurious and the
unwholesome interest in the problems of mental telegraphy.

It would naturally be expected that the nature and subject-matter of
the more frequent types of coincidences and presentiments would throw
some light upon their origin, and would in some measure reinforce the
general position above taken. We should expect that such coincidences
would relate to persons and affairs that are frequently in our
thoughts, and that similarities of thought and presentiments based
upon them should occur among persons intimately acquainted with one
another's thought-habits, at least in regard to that line of thought
to which the coincidence relates; these expectations are fairly
well borne out by the facts. It is a commonplace observation that
presentiments and unusual psychic experiences most frequently relate
to those who are dear to us, or in whom we have a momentarily strong
interest; that they deal with events which we have anxiously dreaded
or desired, or with matters over which we have puzzled or worried;
and again, that they occur under conditions of emotional strain,
excitement, or anxiety. In brief, they deal with what is frequently
in our minds or what more or less unconsciously furnishes the general
emotional and intellectual background which gives character to our
mood and to our associations of ideas. I need hardly add that it is
the more successful and striking coincidences that we remember and
record, and the others that are quickly forgotten. Moreover, so large
a share of mental operations of the type in question takes place in
the region of the subconscious, that our recollection of what has
occupied our thoughts is by no means a final authority. Occasionally
we detect these subconscious similarities of mental operations,
when after a silence the same question or thought shapes itself on
the lips of two speakers at the same time; and here again, are not
many of those who give utterance to the same thoughts, or finish one
another's sentences, intimate companions in the walks of life? Is it
strange that in the daily intercourse with a congenial spirit, they
should have absorbed enough of one another's mental processes to
anticipate, now and then, a step in their association of ideas?

Still another factor that figures somewhat in coincidences
relates to events which are sooner or later very likely or quite
certain to occur, and in which the coincidence is confined to
the close simultaneity of the action on the part of two or more
persons concerned. The crossing of letters is easily the best
illustration of this type of occurrence which has the semblance
of thought-communication. It is so easy to fall into the habit of
delaying all delayable matters as long as possible that it must
frequently happen that your own sense of duty is aroused and your
correspondent's patience is exhausted at nearly the same time. If A
is to hear from B, or B from A, within a period not very definite
but still reasonably limited, every day's delay makes it more and
more probable that their letters will cross. The same consideration
applies to other affairs of daily life; we delay a matter of business
and are just about to attend to it when the other party concerned
comes to us, or we delay offering some social attention until just as
we are about to do so it is asked of us; and so on. In brief, we find
not only in sickness and death, in family ties and friendships, in
travel and adventure, but also in the special and in the complicated
interests of our civilized life an abundant opportunity for
coincidences; and we find that their frequency is clearly related to
the commonness of the event, and to its familiarity and closeness of
relation to our habits of thought.


Reviewing the arguments which have been presented, we find a tendency
to underestimate the possibilities of expression and communication
through the normal channels of the senses and the subtle inferences
based upon them, and also an insufficient appreciation of the
unrecognized but by no means supernormal capabilities, which
special and unusual susceptibility or training of these same powers
of interpretation and thought-revelation may bring about; we find,
further, a prevalent underestimation of the generic and at times the
specific similarity of the products of our several diverse and yet
homogeneous mental equipments, and with it a lack of consideration
of the greatly increased facilities for such mental community
afforded by modern conditions of rapid transit and rapid sharing
of the common benefits of civilization. We find a misconception of
the nature of the application of the doctrine of chances to mental
coincidences, which brings about an apparent recognition but an
intrinsic belittling of the rôle which chance really plays in the
evidence advanced for telepathy; we find that this error is probably
due to an unfortunate, intensely individual view of the problem,
which insists upon an explanation of personal experiences, and
disregards the essentially impersonal and statistical nature of the
inquiry. This unfair attitude (which is equally unfair if applied
to other and more exact data) renders difficult, if not impossible,
a just appreciation of the theoretical aspect of the problem and
of the application of theory to practice. We find, furthermore,
that the recorded data are likely to involve an unusual degree of
unreliability owing to such natural psychological tendencies as
defective observation, exaggeration, preconception, and the ordinary
limitations and failings of humanity; nor is any serious amount of
such neglect needed to bridge the gap between intelligible fact and
unintelligible mystery. Finally, it is not sufficiently borne in mind
that the data are in large part created by the subjective attitude of
expectation and interest in such experiences, and that the nature
of the more frequent coincidences furnishes satisfactory evidence
of their natural relations to dominant interests and occupations.
The concordant suggestion from these various considerations is that
a very large part of the experiences offered in evidence of mental
telegraphy, finds a much more natural and more consistent explanation
when viewed as the complex and irregular results of types of mental
processes included within the legitimate and recognized domain of
psychology. There is no desire to overlook the loose and distant
connection that often pertains between the general considerations
and the particular phenomena here relevant; on the contrary, this
lack of explicit and intimate connection is a logical characteristic
of the relation of theory to practice in dealing with such complex
and irregular material, and is likely for a long time to remain so.
A more properly cultivated logical sense will bring about a more
satisfactory appreciation of and a greater intellectual content with
this aspect of the problem; it will be recognized that it is wiser to
make the best of actual though admittedly unsatisfactory conditions
than to fly to evils that we know not of.


I therefore regard the inclination towards a telepathic hypothesis
as the result of a defective logical attitude, which in turn may be
regarded as the outcome of a natural but unfortunate psychological
tendency. In considering the question, "What is the proper inference
to be drawn from the accumulated data apparently suggestive of
'communication between mind and mind otherwise than through the
known channels of the senses'?" we are considering a logical
problem--a problem of considerable difficulty, not one to be entered
upon without deliberation and preparation. In considering the
question, "How is it that such evidence is readily accepted as proof
of telepathy? How is it that this hypothesis is favored above others
intrinsically no less improbable?" we are likewise entering upon a
complex problem, but one that is psychological in scope and nature.
It is to a more fundamental consideration of these questions that we
now turn.

I have based my discussion of mental telegraphy almost wholly upon
the occurrence of coincidences (using that term not as the equivalent
wholly of chance occurrences, but including suggestive or interesting
conjunctions of circumstances in general), for the reason that
coincidences--both those of a commonplace character and those that
seem to possess a striking personal significance--have prepared the
popular mind for the acceptance of the telepathic hypothesis, and
still constitute the most formidable array of evidence presented
for that hypothesis. The other class of evidence to be considered
is the experimental, which may be said to include as its most
distinctive type the results of tests in which intentional attempts
at mental telegraphy were made under definite conditions and usually
with specially selected subjects; and as another type, the precise
verification and registration of presentiments and peculiar and
startling "psychic experiences" with reference to their coincidence
with death, accidents, and other serious events in life. It may be
admitted that the experimental data are equally worthy with the
others of a logical analysis, and indeed that they present in some
respects different and more favorable conditions for the application
of such an analysis. In general, however (and I desire to confine
this discussion to the general principles involved and not to the
analysis of special cases), the considerations that determine the
logical value, or the lack of it, of the one type of evidence are
applicable without undue modification to the other. Nor do I consider
that the experimental data have seriously modified the logical status
of the problem as a whole; nor that they have, except in relatively
few cases, been of themselves sufficient to make converts to a
belief in telepathy. They have undoubtedly very much strengthened
and disseminated that belief; but this implies that a favorable
disposition to the belief was already present. It is because it
seems to me that the presence of this favorable disposition, albeit
in suppressed or half-acknowledged form, is in most cases due to
some phase of the argument from coincidences, that I have made it
central in my discussion. I must not fail to point out, however,
that experiments in thought-transference have one important, and
that a logical, advantage over observations of coincidences; this is
the possibility which they present of quite accurately allowing for
the effect of chance. In coincidences the estimate of chance as the
source of the conjunction of events is frequently, if not always, a
matter of complex judgment over which serious differences of opinion
will occur. Some of the published quantitative estimates made by
serious and able students of such problems, of the probabilities
that certain coincidences have been due to chance have been
pronounced altogether wide of the mark and even absurd by others. In
experiments arranged with due precautions there can be no uncertainty
on this point; the proportion of successes, that is, of striking
coincidences, may be calculated. If the actual number of chance
coincidences appreciably exceeds the calculated proportion, and if
the theory on which the calculation was based corresponds to the
actual conditions, then the results were not due to chance alone. But
whether they were due to fraud, or to some unconscious transference
of indications, or to telepathy, or to spirit influence, or to
interference of the devil, or to the fact that the participants in
the experiment were born when the stars and planets presented certain
conjunctions, or to the existence of a totally unrecognized form of
mental vibrations,--all these are mere hypotheses which may be strong
or weak or absurd, according to their power to really account for
the results, to their concordance with the sum total of scientific
knowledge in this field and with the logical principles guiding the
formation of scientific hypotheses. To jump from the conclusion that
the results are not due to chance to the conclusion that they are
due to telepathy, is no whit more absurd than the position of the
astrologer, or the spiritualistic explanation of conjuring tricks.
That there is something in these results to be explained is admitted;
whether the results have been obtained and recorded in such a way
as to contain the clue to their explanation cannot be affirmed;
whether our present state of knowledge enables us to explain them may
be argued pro and con; whether they are worth serious attention is
also a debatable question; but none of these conditions warrants a
resort to the telepathic hypothesis. That hypothesis as all others
must be weighed in the logical balance without prepossession, and
with full realization of the possibility, that "general appearances
suspicious," or "not proven," or a complete suspension of judgment,
may be among the present verdicts.


So far as the strength and weakness of the arguments for mental
telegraphy depend upon the perspective of value attached to the
various data and to the conditions under which these have been
gathered, I have presented my estimate and indicated the burden of
my conclusions. But I am aware that I may have laid myself open to
the charge--which will be brought not by the advocates of telepathy,
but by its most emphatic opponents--of a neglect of consideration of
the general logical status of telepathy as a germane and legitimate
hypothesis. That the hypothesis of telepathy when carefully
interpreted is capable, if not of explaining the data, at least of
being fitted without undue straining to a large portion of the data,
may be claimed with some plausibility; that I regard the hypothesis
as unwarranted and unnecessary has been made sufficiently clear. But
what if the hypothesis is not a legitimate one, not one which the
methods and spirit of science can properly or profitably consider? If
this be the case, it would seem superfluous to consider whether the
hypothesis is warranted by the data or capable of explaining them.
That it is the policy of science to allow the utmost latitude of
opinion and theory and to interpret the possible in an unprejudiced
and liberal spirit will readily be conceded. That it is equally
the policy of science to demand of all claimants for recognition
authentic credentials framed in accordance with the laws of logic and
the principles of evidence and probability, is sometimes overlooked.
Science cannot possibly consider all hypotheses, but only legitimate
ones. To explain coincidences and the success of experiments in
thought-transference by assuming that there is a demon, whose
special business it is to make people have uncanny feelings when
their relatives in distant places are dying or in danger, and to
suggest to the guesser what is in the mind of the party of the second
part in the experiment, is certainly not an hypothesis worthy of
consideration by science; and incidentally be it noted that this
hypothesis may be successfully shaped to fit the facts, and cannot
be definitely disproved. Some absurd hypotheses may be readily
disproved and others not; but are scientists really called upon to
disprove them? There recently fell under my observation a claim for
the theory that when persons felt an unaccountable aversion for one
another, either at once or after a time of friendship, it was due to
their opposite horoscopic natures, and it would be found that their
birthdays were not far from six months apart, that is, nearly as
far apart as they possibly could be. Divorces, breaches of promise,
family feuds, and antipathies at first sight could thus be accounted
for. Now, it would involve no very burdensome undertaking to disprove
this theory; but I should not expect a cordial approval of my efforts
on the part of my colleagues if I carried through the investigation.
The hypothesis is unscientific, or even anti-scientific, and its
examination unnecessary and unprofitable. Yet it is not always
possible to render so decisive a verdict; and in the present case,
while I incline to the belief that the hypothesis of telepathy is,
as usually advanced and in essence, an illegitimate one, I still
regard it as possible that in the future some modification of this
hypothesis may be framed, which will bring it within the scope of a
liberal conception of the scientific. It is important to make this
attitude perfectly clear: if telepathy means the hypothesis of a
new force, that is, the assumption of an as yet uncomprehended mode
of the output of energy, subject rigorously to the physical bonds
of material causation which make possible a rational conception of
psycho-physiological processes; and if, further, some one will put
forth a rational conception of how this assumed action can take place
apart from the exercise of the senses, I am prepared to admit that
this hypothesis is (not sound, or strong, or in accordance with the
facts, or capable of explaining the facts, or warranted by the facts,
but) one which it is legitimate, though perhaps not profitable, to
consider. If, however, telepathy is put forward as a totally new and
peculiar kind of action, which is quite unrelated to the ordinary
forces with which our senses and scientific observation acquaint
us, and which is not subject to the limitations of the material
world of causation; if telepathy is supposed to reveal to us a world
beyond or behind or mysteriously intertwined with the phenomena of
this world,--a world in which events happen not in accordance with
the established physical laws, but for their personal significance
even in defiance of those laws,--then it becomes impossible for
the scientist to consider this hypothesis without abandoning his
fundamental conceptions of law and science.

My defense, therefore, for not beginning and possibly confining
this discussion to the question of the scientific legitimacy
of the telepathic hypothesis is that, in the present status of
opinion, it does not seem to me hopeful to influence belief by
such a presentation. It seems to me a far more practical step to
present the unwarranted character of the hypothesis and its logical
insufficiencies as a means of influencing those who had been, or were
likely to be, impressed by coincidences and death-warning experiences
and guessing experiments. And, moreover, it is necessary, so long
as such experiences have a strong hold on the popular imagination
and shape the popular conceptions of the nature both of mental
processes and of the field of psychology, to portray as well as
may be the natural explanation and significance of the phenomena,
and to indicate the general trend of the conceptions under which
they may be profitably viewed; and this, even though it be but
measurably possible to apply general principles to special cases.
This step is an essential part of the logical task here attempted.
Under other circumstances it would have been advisable, as it always
would be proper, to determine the legitimacy of an hypothesis before
considering it as worthy of detailed examination on other counts. But
here, as is frequently the case, it is a condition and not one of our
own choosing that confronts us.


What is the logical conclusion to be drawn from the data offerable
in evidence of some supersensory form of thought-transference,
and whence the disposition to believe in the existence of such a
procedure?--these remain the central questions of the discussion.
As to the former, I can say no more in dismissing the topic than
that to me the phenomena represent a complex conglomerate, in which
imperfectly recognized modes of sense-action, hyperæsthesia and
hysteria, fraud, conscious and unconscious, chance, collusion,
similarity of mental processes, an expectant interest in
presentiments and a belief in their significance, nervousness and ill
health, illusions of memory, hallucinations, suggestion, contagion,
and other elements enter into the composition; while defective
observation, falsification of memory, forgetfulness of details, bias
and prepossession, suggestion from others, lack of training and of
a proper investigative temperament, further invalidate and confuse
the records of what is supposed to have been observed. Many of the
reported facts are not facts at all; others are too distortedly and
too deficiently reported to be either intelligible or suggestive;
some are accurately observed and properly recorded, and these
sometimes contain a probable suggestion of their natural explanation,
sometimes must be put down as chance, and more often must be left
unexplained. To call this absence of an explanation telepathy is
surely no advance; to pose this hypothetic process as the _modus
operandi_ of any result that can be even remotely and contingently
otherwise accounted for seems superfluous; to actually use this
hypothesis to account for still more obscure and more indefinite and
less clearly established phenomena is a most egregious logical sin.

As to the natural tendency to believe in telepathy, it may be
regarded as part of the anthropocentric and egocentric view of
the universe and its happenings, and as an exemplification of the
persistence of the mystical view of mundane events,--both of which
are dominant in primitive philosophy, remain conspicuous wherever
superstition still has a hold, flourish in pseudo-science and in
esoteric cults, and will probably never become wholly obsolete.
Mr. Clodd's remarks concerning the general notions underlying
"sympathetic magic" may be applied to the bias in favor of the
telepathic theory: "The general idea has only to be decked in another
garb to fit the frame of mind which still reserves some pet sphere
of nature for the operation of the special and the arbitrary."
However difficult it may be to realize fully and in detail that the
objective order of things is not arranged for our several personal
benefits, that conclusion is inevitably forced upon us by a true
insight into the inexorable logic of events, and harmonizes with the
reflections of our more logical moods. Whatever tide there may be
in human affairs is largely of our own making; there is nothing to
mark the flood except our own judgment and insight. We may select
and arrange and adapt circumstances according to our needs, but the
selection is made by us and not for us: "We must _take_ the current
when it serves." Some effort is necessary, some schooling must be
gone through with, to enforce this attitude and to give it the
practical effectiveness of a living conviction. The attitude of
conformity with current belief, the easy acceptance of the plausible,
the avoidance of careful and questioning analysis, are far more
inviting and less exacting than the regulation of belief by the logic
of matured principles. The strenuous life has quite as important a
mission in intellectual as in practical affairs. It will be a decided
advance when it becomes generally acknowledged that the discussion of
such an hypothesis as telepathy presupposes an intimate acquaintance
not merely with the facts concerned, but with the logical aspects of
their interpretation; that the probability of forming a sound opinion
on such matters is measured not by the fervor of the interest in
them, but by the intellectual requisites necessary to steer one's way
among the intricacies and dangers of such an expedition. No persons
are more deeply interested in the successful issue of a voyage than
the passengers; but this interest does not qualify them to form an
intelligent opinion upon the proper direction of the machinery or
the setting of the course,--much less does it fit them to take an
active part in the actual navigation. Yet there are always those
who confidently criticise the actions of captain and pilot, and
are anxious to display their ability to form opinions of their own
in regard to the intricate navigation over nature's highways. The
most efficient antidote to the too ready inclination towards the
popular or the superficial interpretation of the phenomena involved
in mental telegraphy is doubtless the cultivation of the logical
vigor and prudence so frequently referred to; and next to this is an
appreciation of the marvelous complexity and unfathomable subtlety of
mental operations.


The saying that appearances are deceptive is an inheritance from
ancient times; to Oriental and to Greek philosophers the illusory
nature of the knowledge furnished by the senses was a frequent and
a fertile theme of contemplation and discussion. The same problem
stands open to the psychologist of to-day; but, profiting by the
specialization of learning and the advance of technical science, he
can give it a more comprehensive as well as a more practical answer.
The physiological activities underlying sense-perception are now
fairly well understood; the experimental method has extended its
domain over the field of mental phenomena; and in many ways have we
become more expert in addressing our queries to the sphinx, Nature,
so as to force a reply. To outline the position of modern psychology
with reference to this interesting problem of deception is the object
of the present essay.


In a sense-impression we recognize a primitive element in the
acquisition of knowledge. The deprivation of a sense even under most
favorable circumstances leaves some traces of an incomplete mental
development. This is due, not to the mere sense-impressions that the
organ furnishes, but to the perception and coördination of these
by inferential processes of a more complex nature. It is not the
eye of the eagle, but the brain directing the human eye, that leads
to intellectual supremacy. Physiology recognizes this distinction
as one between lower and higher brain-centres. A man may have his
retina or his optic nerve injured, and so be blind in the ordinary
sense of the word. He is prevented from acquiring further knowledge
by this avenue; but, unless he become blind in early childhood, he
will retain a memory for visual images, will be able more or less
clearly to imagine pictorially the appearances of objects from verbal
descriptions, and in the free roamings of his dream fancy will live
in a world in which blindness is unknown. On the other hand, there
is a condition resulting from the disintegration of certain portions
of the finely organized cortex of the brain, in which the patient
may retain full sight and understanding, but be unable to derive
any meaning from what he sees. The same cluster of sensations that
enables us to recognize a book, a picture, a face, and to arouse all
the numerous associations attaching to these, is as unmeaning to
him as the symbols of a cipher alphabet. This condition is termed
"psychic blindness;" and what is there lost is not the power of
vision, but of interpreting, of assimilating, of reading the meaning
of visual sense-impressions. It is this interpreting and assimilating
process that is largely concerned in the formation of illusions.

In the experiences of daily life we have to do not with simple
sensations, but with more or less complex inferences from them;
and it is just because these inferences go on so constantly and so
unconsciously that they are continually and persistently overlooked.
It is an occasional experience in raising a water-pitcher to have
the vessel fly up in the hand in a very startling manner,--the
reason for this being that the pitcher, which one is accustomed to
find well filled, happens to be empty. This experience shows that
we unconsciously estimate the force necessary to raise the vessel,
but only become conscious of this train of inference when it happens
to lead to conclusions contradictory of the fact. The perception
of distance, once thought to be as primitive a factor in cognition
as the impression of a color, is likewise the result of complex
though unrealized inferences; and the phenomena of the stereoscope,
by imitating the conditions of the perception of solidity and thus
making us see as solid the flat representations of a pair of diagrams
or photographs, furnish a brilliant illustration of the variety
and complexity of such unconscious reasonings. As for essential
purposes normal persons have a common anatomy, a common physiology,
and a common psychology, it results that we draw these unconscious
inferences after the same pattern; and so completely are they the
outcome of the normal reactions to our common environment, that
we need not be, and as a rule are not, aware of their existence
until--and probably with some little effort--our attention is
directed to them. Unconsciously and spontaneously we learn to
see,--that is, to extract meaning out of the sense-impressions that
fall upon the retina.

The simplest type of a deception occurs when an inference or an
interpretation of this type, owing to an _unusual disposition of
external circumstances_, leads to a conclusion which other and
presumably superior testimony shows to be false. Thus, in the
observation which Aristotle knew and described, that a pea or other
round object held between two fingers crossed one over the other
seems double, it is the unusual position of the fingers that induces
the illusion. Under ordinary circumstances a sensation of contact
on the left side of one finger and on the right side of the finger
next to it (to the right) could only be produced by the simultaneous
application of two bodies. We unconsciously and naturally make
the same inference when the fingers are crossed, and thus fall
into error--an error, it is important to observe, which we do not
_outgrow_ but _antagonize_ by more convincing evidence. The pea held
between the crossed fingers continues to _feel_ like two peas, but we
are under no temptation to _believe_ that there really are two peas.

The limitations of our senses lead directly to the possibilities
of their deception, which may in turn be realized inadvertently
or utilized intentionally. We appreciate how defective is our
localization of sound when we attempt to find a cricket by locating
whence proceeds its chirp; the same difficulty lends uncertainty
to the determination of the direction of fog-horn signals of
passing steamers. This uncertainty coöperates in the illusions of
ventriloquism; it is involved in the smack which one clown gives
another, but which is really the clapping of the hands of the
supposed victim; it produces a realistic effect when a cannon is
fired on the stage, for it is necessary only to show the flash while
the noise is produced behind the scenes. Again, the stimulation of
the retina is ordinarily due to the impinging upon it of light-waves
emanating from an external object. Accordingly, when the retina is
disturbed by any exceptional cause, such as a blow on the head or
an electric shock to the optic nerve, we have a sensation of light
projected outward into space. The perception of our own locomotion,
which is likewise a highly inferential process, offers illustrations
of casual illusion and of artificial deception. When on a train, it
is by the passing-by before our eyes in the opposite direction of
trees and posts and other features of the landscape, that we realize
that we are moving forward; accordingly, when a train alongside moves
out before our own train has started, we have a distinct realization
that we are moving backwards so long as we look at the forward-moving
train. There is an illusion devised for amusement called the "Magic
Swing," in which one is apparently swung to and fro with wider and
wider excursions until a complete revolution is apparently made
from a vertical to a horizontal, through the antipodal position,
back to the horizontal and the normal. In reality, only a slight
motion is imparted to the swing, but the inclosing walls, which
are painted to represent a forest scene, are themselves revolved
forward and then backward about the axis from which the swing is
suspended. As, however, we have no experience with oscillating trees,
we unconsciously infer the oscillations to be and feel them in our
own persons. In another application of the same illusion we seem to
be let down into the bowels of the earth; but after a slight actual
descent the car remains stationary while the illuminated sides of
the shaft, which are suitably painted, are moved panorama-like in
an upward direction. In brief, we are creatures of the average; we
are adjusted for the most probable event; our organism has acquired
the habits impressed upon it by the most frequent experiences; and
this has induced an inherent logical necessity to interpret a new
experience by the old, an unfamiliar by the familiar. In describing
illusions of the above type, Mr. Sully aptly says that they
"depend on the general mental law that when we have to do with the
unfrequent, the unimportant, and therefore unattended to, and the
exceptional, we employ the ordinary, the familiar, and the well known
as our standard." Illusion arises when the rule thus applied fails to
hold; and whether or not we become cognizant of the illusion depends
upon the ease with which the exceptional character of the particular
instance can be recognized, or the inference to which it leads be
opposed by presumably more reliable evidence.


To make things seem more wonderful than they are, to possess
knowledge and exhibit power beyond the ken of the multitude, has
exercised a fascination upon the human mind in all its stages of
development. The primitive conjuring of the ancient priest or of the
savage medicine-man, the long tradition of Oriental legerdemain,
and the stage performances of the modern prestidigitateur are
all connected with deep-seated human instincts. It has even been
suggested[3] that the mimicry and death-feigning instincts of
animals, though essentially biological in type, are yet related to
the psychological instincts of deception which make their first clear
appearance in the higher animals and assume a distinctive position
in the psychological equipment of childhood. The conjuring tricks or
paradoxes which apparently contradict or rise superior to ordinary
experience, furnish the most various types of illustration of the
psychology of deception. Whether presented as miracle by priest or
by thaumaturgist or by expounder of the black art, or presented
as proof of spirit agency by the modern spiritualistic medium or
his less pretentious predecessors, or by the stage performer for
entertainment, the analysis of what was actually done, and the
accounts of what the spectators saw or believed that they saw,
illuminate with striking brilliancy the _modus operandi_ of the
processes whereby appearance takes the semblance of reality and
observation is shrewdly led astray. The conjurer thus becomes a
suggester and an actor, not a mere exhibitor of his manipulative

As our present purpose is to investigate the nature of real
deception, of the formation of false beliefs which may in turn lead
to unwise action, it will be well to note that even such elementary
forms of sense-deceptions as those just noted may fall under this
head. No one allowed the use of his eyes will ever believe that the
pea held between the crossed fingers is really double, but children
often think that a spoon half immersed in water is really bent.
Primitive peoples believe that the moon really grows smaller as it
rises above the horizon; and the ancients could count sufficiently
upon the ignorance of the people, to make use of mirrors and other
stage devices for revealing the power of the gods. The ability to
correct such errors depends solely upon the possession of certain
knowledge or of a confidence in its existence.

Continuing with deceptions dependent upon exceptional external
arrangements, we may find in conjuring tricks simple and complex
illustrations in great perfection. When wine is turned into water,
when two half-dollars are rolled into one, when a box into which an
article has just been placed is immediately opened and found to be
empty, when a handkerchief is torn and made whole again, when the
performer drives a nail through his finger, when a coin suddenly
appears out of space at the end of a wand, when a card which you have
just assured yourself is the ace of hearts on second view is the
king of spades, when a bowl filled with water in which goldfish are
swimming is produced from under a handkerchief, when a child rests
horizontally in mid-air supported only on one elbow,--you are misled
or mystified or deceived in so far as you are unaware that the wine
was potassium permanganate and sulphuric acid, and was clarified
by sodium hyposulphite; that the one half-dollar is hollow and the
solid one fits into it; that the box has a double bottom controlled
by a secret spring; that the real handkerchief was not torn but
another substituted for it; that the nail has been replaced by one
that fits around the finger; that the wand is hollow, and a spring
controls the appearance or withdrawal of a split coin at its other
end; that one half of the card is printed on a flap which, by falling
down, shows another aspect; that the bowl covered with a rubber cap
was secreted under the coat of the performer; that the child wears
a steel suit fitted with joints that lock and become rigid. All
these are technical devices which amuse us by the ingenuity of their
construction, and, though they may be most baffling, provoke about
the same type of mental interest as does a puzzle or an automaton.
Ignorance of this technical knowledge or lack of confidence in its
existence may convert these devices into real deceptions by changing
the mental attitude of the spectator. However, the plausibility of
such performances depends so much upon their general presentation
that they seldom rely for their effectiveness solely upon the
objective appearances presented. They are given a dramatic setting,
or put forward as examples of newly discovered forces or of magical
control; and this makes them far more effective than this bare
account would suggest.

Asking the reader, then, to bear in mind the very great number
and ingenuity of such devices, and insisting once more that the
only complete safeguard against being misled by them to the extent
of forming false conceptions of their _modus operandi_, is the
acquisition of the purely technical knowledge that underlies their
success, I shall cite in detail a trick combining illustrations
of several of the principles to be discussed. Several rings are
collected from the audience upon the performer's wand; he takes the
rings back to the stage and throws them upon a platter; a pistol
is needed, and is handed to the performer from behind the scenes;
with conspicuous indifference he hammers the precious trinkets until
they fit into the pistol. A chest is hanging on a nail at the side
of the stage; the pistol is fired at this chest, which is thereupon
taken down and placed upon a table towards the rear of the stage.
The chest is unlocked and found to contain a second chest; this is
unlocked and contains a third this a fourth. As the chests emerge
they are placed upon the table; and now from the fourth chest there
comes a fifth, which the performer carries to the front of the stage
and shows to contain bonbons around each of which is tied one of the
rings taken from the audience. The effect is most startling. This is
the appearance of the trick from the audience. Now let us consider
what really takes place. In the hand holding the wand are as many
brass rings as are to be collected. In walking back to the stage the
genuine rings are allowed to slip off the wand and the false rings
to take their places. This excites no suspicion, as the walking back
to the stage is obviously necessary, and never impresses one as part
of the performance. The pistol is not ready upon the stage, but must
be gone for; and as the assistant hands the performer the pistol,
the latter transfers to the assistant the true rings. The hammering
of the false rings is now deliberately undertaken, thus giving the
assistant ample time to tie the true rings to the bonbons; and, while
all attention is concentrated upon the firing of the pistol, the
assistant unobtrusively pushes a small table on to the rear of the
stage. This table has a small fringe hanging about it, certainly
an insignificant detail, but none the less worth noting. The chests
are now opened, and, after having shown the audience that the second
chest comes out of the first, the third out of the second, and so on,
the performer can very readily and quickly draw the last, smallest
chest from a groove _under_ the table, where it was concealed by
the aforesaid fringe, and bring it forward as though it _had come_
out of the next larger chest; this smallest chest is opened and the
trick is accomplished. So thoroughly convinced is the observer by the
correctness of his first three inferences that the last box came out
of the one before it, that I venture to say this explanation does not
occur to one person in many thousand, and that most of the audience
would have been willing to affirm on oath that they saw the last box
so emerge. The psychology of the process, then, consists in inducing
the spectator to draw the natural inference, which, in this case, it
has been carefully arranged shall be a wrong one.

Deception becomes real according to the skill with which the
conditions of reality are imitated. The dexterity and training of
the professional conjurer are measured by the fidelity with which he
mimics the movements which are supposed to be done. The life-likeness
of the movement with which the late Hermann could take up an
imaginary orange with both hands from a table (the orange was really
let down in a trap on the table as the hands were placed over it),
and carry it over to another table where it mysteriously disappeared
or passed through a hat, was quite irresistible. Equally so was his
palming, or his production of objects from his person, or out of the
air, or in out-of-the-way places. The mimetic movements accompanying
these actions were so vividly realistic, the misdirection of the
attention was so perfect, as to produce a complete hallucination of
the appearance of objects from places from which they never emerged.
When this was preceded by an actual sleight-of-hand movement, a true
hallucination resulted; for example, in the trick of the flying
cards which were skilfully thrown to all parts of the auditorium, a
card was occasionally thrown which seemed to disappear mysteriously
in mid-air; but in reality no card had been thrown but only the
movements of throwing it imitated. A rabbit was tossed up in the air
two or three times, and then disappeared at the report of a pistol;
in reality the rabbit was not tossed at all on the last apparent
throw, but was slipped into the hollow of the table.[4]

The more closely the conditions that lead to correct inferences in
ordinary experiences are imitated, the more successful will be the
illusion; and a useful principle of conjuring illusions is to _first
actually do_ that which you _afterward_ wish the audience to _believe
that you continue to do_. Thus, when coins are caught in mid-air
and thrown into a hat, a few are really thrown in; but the others
are palmed in the hand holding the hat, and allowed to fall when
the other hand makes the appropriate movements. Some of the rings
to be mysteriously linked together are given to the audience for
examination and found to contain no opening, the audience at once
concluding that the rings which the performer retains are precisely
like them. In general, to gain the confidence of the person to be
deceived is the first step alike in sleight-of-hand and in criminal


As we turn from the objective to the subjective conditions of
deception, we enter the true domain of psychology; for the most
scientific deceiver is he who employs least external aids, and
counts most upon his power of captivating the intellect. Just as we
interpret appearances by the forms they most commonly assume, so it
is our average normal selves that interpret them. A variation in our
sense-organs or in our judging powers will lead to illusion. The
effects of contrast may serve as apt illustrations. When passing
from a dark to a light room the light seems glaringly bright; a hand
immersed in hot water and then in lukewarm water will feel the latter
as cold; when accustomed to the silence of the country the bustle of
the city seems unusually noisy. Fatigue produces similar results.
Fatigue the eye for red, and it sees white light as green; the last
mile of a long walk seems the longest; the last hour of a long wait,
the most tedious. So long as we recognize our unusual condition and
allow for its effects, we are not deceived; but under the influence
of emotion this power is readily lost, as it may be permanently lost
in the insane. The delusions of the insane are often influenced by
misinterpretations of real but abnormal sensations under the guidance
of a dominant idea. On the basis of an anæsthetic skin a patient may
come to believe that he is made of glass or stone; subjective noises
in the ear, due to disturbances of the circulation, are transformed
into the jeers and taunts of an invisible persecutor. But for the
present we will assume that the judging powers do not vary beyond
their normal limits.

In every perception two factors contribute to the result. The one is
the nature of the object perceived, the other that of the percipient.
The effect of the first factor is obvious and well recognized; the
importance of the second factor is more apt to be overlooked. The
sunset is a different experience to the artist from what it is to the
farmer; a piece of rocky scenery is viewed with quite a different
interest by the artist and the geologist. The things that were
attractive in childhood have lost their charm; and what was then,
if noticed at all, considered stupid, has become a cherished hobby.
Even from day to day, our interests change with our moods, and our
views of things brighten with the weather or the good behavior of
our digestive organs. Not only will the nature of the impression
change with the interests of the observer, but even more, whether or
not an object will be perceived at all, will depend upon the same
cause. The naturalist sees what the stroller entirely overlooks; the
sailor detects a ship in the distant horizon where the landsman
sees nothing; and this is not because the naturalist and the
sailor have keener vision, but because they know what to look for.
Whenever an impression is vague, or an observation made under poor
conditions, this subjective element comes to the front. Darkness,
fear, any strong emotion, any difficulty in perception reveal the
same influence. "La nuit tous les chats sont gris." Expectation, or
expectant attention, is doubtless the most influential of all such
factors. When awaiting a friend, any indistinct noise is readily
converted into the rumbling of carriage-wheels; the mother hears
in every sound the cry of her sick child. After viewing an object
through a magnifying-glass, we detect details with the naked eye
which escaped our vision before. In spite of the fact that the answer
in the book happens to be wrong, a considerable proportion of the
class succeeds in reaching it. Everywhere we are apt to perceive
what we expect to perceive, in the perception of which we have an
interest. The process that we term "sensation," the gathering of
evidence by the senses, is dual in character, and depends upon the
eyes that see as well as upon the things that are present to be seen.

Accordingly, the conjurer succeeds in his deception by creating an
interest in some unimportant detail, while he is performing the real
trick before our eyes without our noticing it. He looks intently at
his extended right hand, involuntarily carrying our eyes to the same
spot while he is doing the trick with the unobserved left hand. The
conjurer's wand is extremely serviceable in directing the spectator's
attention to the place where the performer desires to have it.[5]
A call upon the attention in one direction prevents its dispersion
in another. When engrossed in work, we are oblivious to the noise
of the street or even to the knock at the door. An absent-minded
person is one so entirely "present-minded" to one train of thought
that other stimuli go unperceived. The pickpocket is psychologist
enough to know that at the railway station, the theatre, or wherever
one's attention is sharply focused in one direction, is he apt to
find the psychological moment for the exercise of his pursuit. It
is in the negative field of attention that deception effects its
purpose. Houdin, the first of the famous prestidigitateurs (died
1871), gives it as one of his rules never to announce beforehand the
nature of the effect which you intend to produce, in order that the
spectator may not know where to fix his attention. He also tells us
that whenever you count "_one_, _two_, _three_," as preliminary to
the disappearance of an object, the real vanishing must take place
before you say "_three_,"--for the audience have their attention
fixed upon "_three_," and whatever is done at "one" or "two" entirely
escapes their notice. The "patter" or setting of a trick often
constitutes the real art of its execution, because it directs or
rather misdirects the attention. When performing before the Arabs,
Houdin produced an astounding effect by a very simple trick. Under
ordinary circumstances the trick was announced as the changing of the
weight of a chest, making it heavy or light at will. The mechanism
was simply the attachment and disconnection of an electro-magnet, in
those days a far less familiar affair than now. To impress the Arabs
he announced that he could spirit a man's strength away and restore
it again at a moment's notice. The trick succeeded as usual, but was
changed from a mere trick to sorcery--the Arabs declaring him in
league with the devil.

The trick, above cited, of supporting a child in mid-air, was
performed by Houdin at the time when the inhalations of ether for
purposes of insensibility were first introduced. This idea was
in the minds of the audience, and magical effects were readily
attributed to etherization. Accordingly the trick was announced as
"suspension in equilibrium by atmospheric air through the action of
concentrated ether," and so successfully was this aspect of the trick
accepted that protests were sent in against "the unnatural father
who sacrificed the health of his poor child to the pleasures of the
public." In the same way, Kellar introduces a "thought-reading"
performance, by going through the movements of hypnotizing the lady
who assists in the trick; this enables him to present the phenomenon
in a mysterious light, and incidentally his manipulations furnish the
opportunity to connect the end of a speaking-tube concealed in the
lady's hair with another portion attached to the chair. In brief, the
effect of a trick depends more upon the receptive attitude of the
spectators than upon what is really done. "Conjuring," Mr. Triplett
observes, "is thus seen to be a kind of game of preperception wherein
the performer so plays upon the psychical processes of his audience
that the issues are as he desires."

There is, too, a class of tricks which illustrate a process, the
reverse of this; and which depend for their éclat upon making the
issues coincide with the apparently freely expressed choice of the
spectator, while really the performer as rigidly determines the
result as in all other cases. One of the best of these proceeds
by collecting some eight or nine questions prepared by as many
persons in the audience, then placing them in a hat, drawing out
one at random, and finding the answer to the question thus selected
written on the inside surfaces of a pair of slates. The deception
begins in the substitution for the collected slips of paper, of the
same number of slips all containing the same carefully prepared
question; the production of the writing on the blank slate is a
chemical technicality. It is a similar result that is obtained in
forcing a card; or when the conjurer asks the audience to select
one of a group of similar objects, and then himself decides whether
the selected object shall be used for the trick or discarded;
likewise, when a magic bottle is presented from which any desired
variety of liquor may be produced, it is easy to suggest the choice
according to the available possibilities. There is thus an imitation
of the psychological factors as well as of the objective factors
of real experience; and both are utilized in the deceptions of the
professional conjurer.

The art of misleading the attention is recognized as _the_ point of
good conjuring, the analogy of the diplomacy that makes the object
of language to conceal thought; and many appropriate illustrations
of this point may be derived from this field. The little flourishes,
tossing an object up in the air, ruffling or springing a pack of
cards, a little joke--all these create a favorable opportunity, a
_temp_ when the attention is diverted and the other hand can reach
behind the table or into the "pocket." It is not necessary to pursue
further these details of technique; it will suffice to analyze the
points of interest in the chest-and-ring trick described above. Here
the moment for the exchange of the rings is the one which is least
suggestive of its being a part of the performance, and therefore
least attended to. The preparations for the shooting absorb the
attention and allow the introduction of the small table at the rear
to pass unnoticed; while the series of drawings of the chests so
entirely prepare the spectator for the appearance of the last chest
from the one preceding, that he actually sees the chest emerge from
where it never had been.

It is necessary, however, not only to provide an opportunity for
non-attention or misdirected attention, but to be able to take
advantage of it when the proper moment arrives. Here enters the
dexterity alike of pickpocket and of conjurer. The training in
quickness and accuracy of motion, in delicacy of touch, in the
simultaneous perception of a wide range of sense-impressions, are
among the psychological requisites of a successful conjurer. He must
dissociate the natural factors of his habits, actually doing one
thing while seemingly attending to another; at the same time his eyes
and his gestures and his "patter" misdirect the attention to what
is apparently the essential field of operation, but really only a
blind to distract attention away from the true scene of action. The
conjurer directs your attention to what he does not do; he does not
do what he pretends to do; and to what he actually does he is careful
neither to appear to direct his own attention nor to arouse yours.


There is, however, one important factor lacking in the conjurer's
performance to illustrate completely the psychology of deception;
it is that the mental attitude of the observer is too definite. He
knows that he is being deceived by skill and adroitness, and rather
enjoys it the more, the more he is deceived. He has nothing at stake;
his mind rests easy without any detailed or complete explanation
of how it was done. Quite different must have been the feeling of
the spectator before the necromancer of old, in whose performance
was seen the evidence of secret powers that could at a moment's
notice be turned against any one to take away good luck, to bring on
disease, or even to transform one into a beast. When magic spells
and wonder-working potions were believed in, what we would now speak
of as a trick was surrounded with a halo of awe and mystery by the
sympathetic attitude of the spectators. The most complete parallel
to this in modern times is presented by the physical phenomena
of Spiritualism; and so many of the manifestations presented by
performing mediums in evidence of Spiritualism have been exposed and
proven to be conjuring tricks, that it is no longer an assumption to
consider them in this connection. Spiritualistic phenomena present
a perfect mine for illustrations of the psychology of deception, and
it is these that I shall consider as the final topic in this cursory

The first general principle to be borne in mind is that the medium
performs to spectators _in doubt_ as to the interpretation to be
placed upon what they see, or more or less prepared or determined
to see in everything the evidence of the supernatural. This mental
attitude on the part of the spectators is worth more to the medium
than any single factor in the performance. The difference between
such a presentation and one addressed to persons cognizant of the
conjuring element in the performance and interested in its detection,
cannot be exaggerated. It is this that makes all the difference
between the séance swarming with miracles, any one of which
completely revolutionizes the principles of science, and the tedious
dreariness of a blank sitting varied only by childish utterances and
amateurish sleight-of-hand. Careful observers often report that the
very same phenomena that were utterly beyond suspicion in the eyes of
believers are to unprejudiced eyes so apparent "that there was really
no need of any elaborate method of investigation"; close observation
was all that was required, and Mr. Davey, who conducted an admirable
investigation of the reliability of accounts of sleight-of-hand
performances, has experimentally shown that of equally good
observers, the one who is informed of the general _modus operandi_ by
which such a phenomenon as "slate-writing" is produced will make much
less of a marvel of it than one who is left in doubt in this regard.

With these all-powerful magicians--an expected result and the
willingness to credit a marvel--clearly in mind, let us proceed from
those instances in which they have least effect up to the point where
they form the chief factor. First come a host of conjuring tricks
performed on the stage in slightly modified forms, but which are
presented as "spiritualistic." So simple a trick as scratching a name
on one's hand with a clean pen dipped in water, then writing the
name on a slip of paper, burning the slip and rubbing the part with
the ashes, thus causing the ashes to cling to the letters formed on
the hand and reveal the name, has been offered as a proof of spirit
agency. Whenever an article disappears or rapidly changes its place,
the spiritualist is apt to see the workings of hidden spirits; and
over and over again have the performances of professional conjurers
been declared to be spiritual in origin in spite of all protest from
the conjurers themselves. Here everything depends upon the possession
of certain technical knowledge; judging without such knowledge is apt
to be mere prejudice. Another very large class of phenomena consists
of those in which the performer is placed in a position apparently
inconsistent with his taking any active part in their production;
rope-tying tests, cabinet séances, the appearance of a "spirit-hand"
from behind a screen, locking the performer in a cage, sewing him
in a bag, and so on. The psychologist has very little interest in
these; their solution depends upon the skill with which knots may be
picked, locks unfastened, and the other devices by which security
may be simulated. The chief interest in such performances is the
historical one, for these have done perhaps more than anything else
to convince believers of the truth of Spiritualism. Here, where
everything depends upon the security of the fastenings (for once
free, the medium can produce messages from the spirit-land limited
only by his ingenuity and boldness), upon the particular moment
when the examination was permitted or the light turned down, upon
the success with which an appearance of security and intactness
of seals and knots may be simulated, it might be supposed that
all possible precautions had been taken to control and eliminate
these possibilities; while, as a matter of fact, the laxity of most
investigators in this regard is well known. These performances
deceive because people overlook the technical acquisitions needed
to pronounce upon the possibility or impossibility of a fastening
having been tampered with and apparently restored without detection.
If manufacturers of safes were equally credulous, and gave equally
little time to the study of the security of locks, "safe" would be an
ironical expression indeed.

Passing next to the most interesting of spiritualistic
manifestations, those in which self-deception comes to the
foreground, I need hardly dwell at length upon the tilting of
tables, the production of raps by movements of which the sitters are
unconscious; for these have been so often and so ably presented that
they must now be well understood. Suffice it to say that it has been
objectively proven that it is almost impossible not to give some
indication of one's thoughts, when put upon the strain; and that
under excitement, these indications may become palpably plain and yet
remain unperceived by the individual who gives them. The extreme
subtlety of these indications is met by the unusual skill of the
professional mind-reader, who takes his clue from indications which
his subject is "absolutely confident he did not give." The assurances
of sitters that _they know_ they did not move the table are equally
valueless; and nothing but objective tests will suffice. The most
wholesome lesson to be derived from the study of these phenomena
is the proof that not all our intentions and actions are under
the control of consciousness, and that, under emotional or other
excitement, the value of the testimony of consciousness is very much
weakened. Again, it is almost impossible to realize the difficulty
of accurately describing a phenomenon lying outside the common range
of observation. Not alone that the knowledge necessary to pronounce
such and such a phenomenon impossible of performance by conjuring
methods is absent, but with due modesty and most sincere intentions
the readiness with which the observing powers and the memory play
one false is overlooked. In the investigation of Mr. Davey, above
referred to, the sitters prepared accounts of the "slate-writing"
manifestations they had witnessed, and described marvels that had
not occurred, but which they were convinced they had seen--messages
written on slates utterly inaccessible to Mr. Davey, and upon slates
which they had noticed a moment before were clean. The witnesses are
honest; how do these mistakes arise? Simply a detail omitted here, an
event out of place there, an unconscious insertion in one place, an
undue importance given to a certain point in another place--nothing
of which any one needs feel ashamed, something which it requires
unusual training and natural gifts to avoid. The mistake lies in not
recognizing our liability to such error.

If, however, the spectator is once convinced that he has evidence
of the supernatural, he soon sees it in every accident and incident
of the performance. Not only that he overlooks natural physical
explanations, but he is led to create marvels by the very ardor of
his sincerity. At a materializing séance the believer recognizes
a dear friend in a carelessly arranged drapery seen in a dim
light. Conclusive evidence of the subjective character of such
perceptions is furnished by the fact that the same appearance
is frequently recognized by different sitters as the spiritual
counterpart of entirely different and totally dissimilar persons. A
"spirit-photograph" is declared to be the precise image of entirely
unlike individuals. In the "Revelations of a Spirit Medium," we
read that a wire gauze mask placed in front of a handkerchief,
made luminous by phosphorus, and projected through the opening
of the cabinet, was "recognized by dozens of persons as fathers,
mothers, sisters, brothers, cousins, sweethearts, wives, husbands,
and various other relatives and friends." Each one sees what he
expects to see, what appeals to his interests the most intensely.
What the unprejudiced observer recognizes as the flimsily disguised
form of the medium, the believer transforms into the object of his
thoughts and longings. Only let the form be vague enough, the light
dim enough, the emotions upon a sufficient strain, and that part of
perception in which the external image is deficient will be readily
supplied by the subjective tendencies of each individual. In the
presence of such a mental attitude the possibilities of deception
are endless; the performer grows bolder as his victim passes from
a watchful, critical attitude to one of easy conviction, and we
get scientific proofs of the fourth dimension of space, of the
possibility of matter passing through matter, of the levitation or
elongation of the medium's body, of the transcendence of the laws of
gravity. And the same performance that convinced Professor Zoellner
of the reality of the fourth dimension of space would prove to the
spiritualist the intercourse with deceased friends, would convince
the theosophist of the flight of the performer's astral body; and,
it may not be irrelevant to add, it was the same type of performance
that served and yet serves to terrify the minds of uncultivated and
superstitious savages. All depends not upon what is done, but upon
the mental disposition of the spectator. Little by little, through
neglect, through mal-observation and lapses of memory, through an
unwillingness to mistrust the reports of an excited consciousness,
caution is abandoned and credulity enters. Mediums are actually seen
flying out of one window and in through another. The wildest and
most far-fetched fantastic explanation is preferred above a simple
one; the bounds of the normal are passed; real hallucinations set
in; conduct becomes irrational, and a state hardly distinguishable
from insanity ensues. If this seems improbable, turn to the records
of witchcraft persecutions and read upon what trifling and wholly
imaginary evidence thousands of innocent lives were sacrificed; and
this not by ignorant, bloodthirsty men, but by earnest, eminent, and
religious leaders. A child is taken sick, is remembered to have been
fondled by an old woman; therefore the woman has put the child under
a spell and must be burned. A man sees an old woman in the woods,
and, on turning about, the old woman is gone and a hare flies across
his track; he concludes that she turned herself into a hare, and the
witch test is applied. When the personal devil was believed in, he
was seen daily clothed in the garments that imagination had given
him, and engaged in mischief and villainy of all kinds. When witchery
was the dominant superstition, all things gave evidence of that. So
long as Spiritualism forms a prominent cult with a real hold upon the
beliefs of its adherents, the number of mediums and manifestations
will be correspondingly abundant. Create a belief in the theory, and
the facts will create themselves.


In the production of this state of mind a factor as yet unmentioned
plays a leading rôle, the power of mental contagion. Error, like
truth, flourishes in crowds. At the hearth of sympathy each finds
a home. The fanatical lead, the saner follow. When a person of
nervous temperament, not strongly independent in thought and action,
enters a spiritualistic circle, where he is constantly surrounded
by confident believers, all eager to have him share their sacred
visions and profound revelations, where the atmosphere is replete
with miracles, and every chair and table may at any instant be
transformed into a proof of the supernatural, is it strange that
he soon becomes affected by the contagion of belief that surrounds
him? He succumbs to its influence imperceptibly and hesitatingly at
first, and perhaps yet restorable to his former modes of thought by
the fresh air of another and more steadfast mental intercourse, but
more and more certainly and ardently convinced the longer he breathes
the séance atmosphere. No form of contagion is so insidious in its
onset, so difficult to check in its advance, so certain to leave
germs that may at any moment reveal their pernicious power, as a
mental contagion--the contagion of fear, of panic, of fanaticism, of
lawlessness, of superstition, of error. The story of the witchcraft
persecutions, were there no similar records to deface the pages of
history, would suffice as a standing illustration of the overwhelming
power of psychic contagion. To illustrate with any completeness its
importance in the production of deception or in the dissemination
of error, would carry us beyond the proper limits of the present
discussion. It enters at every stage of the process and in every
type of illusion. Although it has least effect when deception is
carried on by external arrangements, by skilful counterfeits of
logical inferences, yet even then it enters into the distinction
between a critical, skeptical, and irresponsive body of spectators,
and one that is sympathetic, acquiescent, and cordial; it renders it
easier to effect bold and striking impressions with a larger audience
than with a smaller one; its power is greatest, however, where the
subjective factor in deception is greatest, more particularly in such
forms of deception as have been last described.

In brief, we must add to the many factors which contribute to
deception the recognized lowering of critical ability, of the power
of accurate observation, indeed of rationality, which merely being
one of a crowd induces. The conjurer finds it easier to perform to
large audiences because, among other reasons, it is easier to arouse
their admiration and sympathy, easier to make them forget themselves
and enter into the uncritical spirit of wonderland. It would seem
that in some respects the critical tone of an assembly, like the
strength of a chain, is that of its weakest member. "The mental
quality of the individuals in a crowd," says M. Le Bon, "is without
importance. From the moment that they are in the crowd the ignorant
and the learned are equally incapable of observation."


In this review of the types of deception I have made no mention of
such devices as the gaining of one's confidence for selfish ends,
preying upon ignorance or fear, acting the friend while at heart
the enemy, planned connivance and skilful plotting, together with
the whole outfit of insincerity, villainy, and crime. It is not
that these are without interest or are unrelated to the several
types of deception above considered, but that they are too complex
and too heterogeneous to be capable of ready or rigid analysis.
When deception becomes an art of life, consciously planned and
craftily executed, there must be acting and subterfuge and evasion
to maintain the appearance of sincerity. The psychology of the
processes therein concerned is almost coincident with the range of
social, intellectual, and emotional influences. Complex as these
operations may be, they have, in common with the less intricate forms
of deception, the attempt to parallel the conditions underlying the
logical inferences which it is desired to induce. If we add this
great class of deceptions to those already enumerated, we may perhaps
realize how vast is its domain, and how long and sad must be the
chapter that records the history of human error.

Ethics is so closely related to psychology--right knowing to right
doing--that a brief _hæc fabula docet_ by way of summary may not be
out of place. We find, first, a class of sense-deceptions which are
due to the nature of our sense-endowment, and deceive only so long as
their true character remains unknown. These are neither pernicious
nor difficult to correct. Next comes a class of deceptions that
deceive because we are ignorant of the possibilities of technical
devices, such as those used in legerdemain, and pronounce upon the
possibility or impossibility of a certain explanation in advance
of complete knowledge. But still another class, and that the most
dangerous and insidious, are the deceptions in which self-deception
plays the leading rôle. The only safeguard here is a preventive; the
thorough infusion of sound habits of thought, a full recognition of
the conditions under which the testimony of consciousness becomes
dubious, an appreciation of the true value of objective scientific
evidence, and an inoculation against the evils of contagion by an
independent, unprejudiced, logical schooling. When once the evil
spirit of self-deception, fed by the fire of contagion and emotional
excitement, begins to spread, reason has little control. As Tyndall
tells us, such "victims like to believe, and they do not like to
be undeceived. Science is perfectly powerless in the presence
of this frame of mind.... It [science] keeps down the weed of
superstition, not by logic, but by slowly rendering the mental soil
unfit for cultivation." With the spread of an education that fosters
independence and self-reliance, with the growth of the capacity to
profit by the experiences of others, with the recognition of the
technical requisites that alone qualify one for a judgment in this
or that field, with a knowledge of the possibilities of deception
and of the psychological processes by which error is propagated, the
soil upon which superstitions, psychic delusions, mental epidemics,
or senseless fads are likely to flourish will gradually be rendered


[3] By Norman Triplett, "The Psychology of Conjuring Deceptions,"
_American Journal of Psychology_, xi. 4, July, 1900. This most recent
and extensive treatment of this topic furnishes a well-selected
storehouse of fact, together with suggestive and able interpretations
of the material of conjuring deceptions. I shall draw from this
material in several portions of this essay, without further detailed

[4] Mr. Triplett went through a similar performance with a ball in
the presence of school children; and of 165 children, 78 described
how they saw the ball go up and disappear; of those who were thus
hallucinated 40 per cent. were boys and 60 per cent. were girls.
Hallucinations of perfumes in children were obtained by another
experimenter when water was sprayed from bottles labeled as perfumes;
76 per cent. of 381 pupils saw a toy camel move when a crank attached
to the camel by a string was turned, although the camel remained
quite motionless. The experimental tests, though rather cold and
lifeless when compared with the dramatic stage deceptions, illustrate
the same process, and make possible a comparative study of the
degree of deception in different individuals and under different

[5] "Again, a mere tap with the wand on any spot, at the same time
looking at it attentively, will infallibly draw the eyes of a whole
company in the same direction."--_Houdin._

Robert Houdin, often termed "the king of the conjurers," was a man
of remarkable ingenuity and insight. His autobiography is throughout
interesting and psychologically valuable, and his conjuring precepts
abound in points of importance to the psychologist.



In 1848, from the town of Hydeville, New York, came the somewhat
startling announcement that certain knockings, the source of which
had mystified the household of one of its residents, seemed to be
intelligently guided and ready to appear at call. Somewhat later,
communication was established by agreeing that one rap should mean
_no_, and three raps _yes_; to which was afterwards added the device
of calling off the alphabet and noting at which letters the raps
occurred. In this way, the rapper revealed himself as the spirit of
a murdered peddler. Within a short period the news of this simple
and childish invention had called into existence thousands of
spirit-circles; had developed wonderful "mediums" to whose special
gifts the manifestations were ascribed; had amassed a vast store
of strange testimony; had added to the rappings such performances
as moving tables, causing objects to be mysteriously thrown about,
playing on instruments by unseen hands, materializing spirit flowers,
producing spirit forms and faces, gathering messages from spirits on
sealed slates, and so on. In brief, the movement became an epidemic;
and that despite the fact that from the beginning and continuously
satisfactory and rational explanations were offered of what really
occurred, and that mediums were constantly detected in the grossest
fraud. So early as 1851 the peculiar rappings occurring in the
presence of the Fox sisters, the originators of the movement, were
conclusively traced to the partial dislocation and resetting of a
joint of the knee or foot; and the raps failed to occur when the
girls were placed in a position in which the leverage necessary for
this action was denied them. Many years thereafter, in 1888, Margaret
Fox (Mrs. Kane) and Katie Fox (Mrs. Jencken) publicly confessed
that the raps to which they as children gave rise were produced by
dislocation of the toes; and one of them added to their confession
a demonstration of how this was done. It is unfortunate alike that
the character of the confessers leaves much to be desired, that the
confession was both belated and made under sensational surroundings,
and that the sinners have no better excuse to offer for their long
silence than that the movement was started when they were too young
to appreciate what was being done, and that when they realized the
fraud which they were fostering and the success with which they
were meeting, it was too late or too difficult to retract. None the
less, these circumstances do not destroy the interest in tracing the
evidence of deception and the presence of a moral taint to the very
starting-point of one of the most widespread delusions of modern

The psychological aspect of the phenomena of Spiritualism may be
presented in a consideration of these questions: How is it that
the manifestations produced in evidence of spirit-control carry
conviction? What is the origin of this mass of testimony in favor
of spiritualistic marvels? Whence this general tendency to believe
in the reality of spirit-influence as thus manifested? For the
purposes of these inquiries it will be profitable to consider a few
typical manifestations and to observe their true inwardness. Among
the most influential mediums was Henry Slade; through him many were
converted to Spiritualism, including the famous Zöllner coterie, for
whom he gave a spiritual demonstration of the reality of the fourth
dimension of space. After all the prominence which has been given to
the Zöllner sittings and the importance attached to them by reason
of the eminence of the participants, it is somewhat unexpected to
read in the report of a reliable observer who interviewed Zöllner's
associates, that "of the four eminent men whose names have made
famous the investigation, there is reason to believe one, _Zöllner_,
was of unsound mind at the time, and anxious for an experimental
demonstration of an already accepted hypothesis (the fourth dimension
of space); another, _Fechner_, was partly blind, and believed because
of Zöllner's observations; a third, _Scheibner_, was also afflicted
with defective vision, and not entirely satisfied in his own mind as
to the phenomena; and a fourth, _Weber_, was advanced in age, and did
not even recognize the disabilities of his associates." None knew
anything about conjuring, and, deservedly honored as these men were
in their own specialties, they were certainly not fitted to compete
with a professional like Slade. One of Slade's standard performances
was the production of communications on a slate held beneath a
table, in answer to questions asked by his sitters verbally or in
writing, the writing in some cases being concealed in folded slips
of paper. In his performances before the Seybert Commission it was
soon discovered that the character of the writing on the slates was
of two kinds. The long messages were neatly written, with the i's
dotted and the t's crossed, and often produced unasked, or not in
direct answer to a question; while the short ones in prompt answer
to direct questions were scrawled, hardly legible, and evidently
written without the aid of the eye. The many methods of producing
the short writings were repeated by a professional prestidigitateur
much more skillfully than by Slade. The commission distinctly saw
every step in Slade's method on one occasion or another, but were
utterly baffled by the conjurer (Mr. Harry Kellar), who subsequently
revealed his methods to one of their number. The long messages were
written beforehand, on slates to be substituted at a favorable
opportunity for the ones supplied to the medium. At the last séance
with Dr. Slade, two prepared slates were resting against a table
behind him, and one of the investigators kept a sharp watch upon
these slates. "Unfortunately, it was too sharp; for one second the
medium saw me looking at them. It was enough. That detected look
prevented the revelation of those elaborate spirit messages. But
when the séance was over, and he was signing the receipt for his
money, I passed round behind his chair and pushed these slates with
my foot, so as to make them fall over, whereupon the writing on one
of them was distinctly revealed." The medium at once pushed back
his chair, snatched the slates, hurriedly washed them, and could
with difficulty regain sufficient composure to sign the receipt for
the exorbitant payment of his services. Another observer says with
regard to Slade: "The methods of this medium's operations appear
to me to be perfectly transparent, and I wish to say emphatically
that I am astonished beyond expression at the confidence of this
man in his ability to deceive, and at the recklessness of the risks
which he assumes in the most barefaced manner. The only reason of
our having any so-called 'manifestations,' under the circumstances,
was because of the fact that the committee had agreed in advance to
be entirely passive, and to acquiesce in every condition imposed."
Mrs. Sidgwick, an able English observer, detected the fraudulent
character of Slade's performances from the beginning. She points out
five important grounds of suspicion: "His conjurer-like way of trying
to distract one's attention, his always sitting so as to have the
right hand to manipulate the slate, the vague and general character
of the communications, his compelling one to sit with one's hands in
a position that makes it difficult to look under the table, and his
only allowing two sitters at a time."

The Seybert Commission, it should be explained, owes its origin
to the bequest of an ardent believer in Spiritualism, Mr. Henry
Seybert, to the University of Pennsylvania; which was coupled with
the condition that this university should appoint a commission
to investigate modern Spiritualism. It is from their report[6]
that several of my illustrations are taken. The members of this
commission began their investigations with an entire willingness
to accept any conclusion warranted by facts; and their chairman,
Dr. Horace Howard Furness, confessed "to a leaning in favor of the
substantial truth of spiritualism." They examined many of the most
famous mediums and the manifestations that contributed most to
their fame. Their verdict, individually and collectively, is the
same regarding every medium with whom they saw anything noteworthy:
gross, intentional fraud throughout. The mediums were treated with
the utmost fairness and courtesy; their conditions were agreed to
and upheld; every one, in each kind of manifestation, was caught in
the act of trickery, or else the trick was repeated and explained
by one of the commission. This testimony goes far to justify
the substitution of "trick" for "manifestation," of "senseless
cant" for "spiritualistic explanation," of "adroit conjurer" for
"medium." While the accumulative force of this conclusion can only
be appreciated by a reading of the report itself, a few further
illustrations will contribute to a realization of the nature of the
"manifestations" and their typical _milieu_. Mrs. Patterson, medium,
gives a performance similar to that of Slade. Dr. Knerr had a sitting
with her, and adjusted a mirror about his person so as to reflect
whatever was going on beneath the table. "In the mirror I beheld a
hand ... stealthily insert its fingers between the leaves of the
slate, take out the little slip (containing the question), unfold
and again fold it, grasp the little pencil ... and with rapid but
noiseless motion ... write across the slate from left to right a few
lines; then the leaves of the slate were closed, the little pencil
laid on the top," and the spirits were graciously invoked to send a

The monotony of the narrative of somewhat vulgar deception is
agreeably relieved by the entertaining account given by Dr. Furness
of his experiences with mediums. He sent out sealed letters, the
contents of which certain mediums claimed to be able to read and to
answer by the aid of spirits, and found the seals tampered with,
and mucilage and skill used to conceal the crime; he asked the same
question of various mediums and received hopelessly contradictory
answers; he detected the form of the medium in her assumed
materializations, and found the spirit ready to answer to any and
every name in fiction or reality, from "Olivia" of "The Talking Oak"
to Shakespeare. One of the questions asked by Mr. Furness related
to the ownership in life of a skull in his possession, used for a
long time as the "Yorick's skull" at a Philadelphia theatre. He was
told by one medium that it was "Marie St. Clair," by another that
it was "Sister Belle." Hence these remarks: "Marie St. Clair, who,
on spiritual authority as I have shown above, shares the ownership
with Sister Belle of 'Yorick's' skull in my possession, has never
failed to assent whenever I ask a Spirit if it be she. To be sure,
she varies with every different medium, but that is only one of
her piquant little ways, which I early learned to overlook and at
last grew to like. She is both short and tall, lean and plump, with
straight hair and with curls, young and middle-aged, so that now it
affords me real pleasure to meet with a new variety of her." Equally
amusing is the conversation with a Spirit who was led to assent to
the suggestion that she was "Olive," and at length was addressed
thus: "'Oh, Olive, there's one thing I want so much to ask you
about.... What was the matter with you that afternoon, one summer,
when your father rode his hunter to the town, and Albert followed
after upon his; and then your mother trundled to the gate behind
the dappled grays? Do you remember it, dear?' 'Perfectly.' 'Well,
don't you remember, nothing seemed to please you that afternoon,
you left the novel all uncut upon the rosewood shelf, you left your
new piano shut, something seemed to worry you? Do you remember it,
dear one?' 'All of it; yes, yes.' 'Then you came singing down to
that old oak, and kissed the place where I had carved our names with
many vows. Tell me, you little witch, who were you thinking of all
the time?' 'All the while of you,' she sighed. 'And do you, oh, do
you remember that you fell asleep under the oak, and that a little
acorn fell into your bosom and you tossed it out in a pet? Ah, Olive
dear, I found that acorn, and kissed it twice and kissed it thrice
for thee! And do you know that it has grown into a fine young oak?'
'I know it,' she answered softly and sadly, 'I often go to it.' This
was almost too much for me, and as my memory, on the spur of the
moment, of Tennyson's 'Talking Oak' was growing misty, I was afraid
the interview might become embarrassing for lack of reminiscences;"
so the materialization of a very human form was brought to a close.
To this may be added--to illustrate the barefacedness of the medium's
business--the fact, communicated to me by Dr. Furness, that a noted
medium had visited a professional juggler, and, "making no secret to
him of his trickery as a medium for independent slate-writing, had
purchased from the juggler several other tricks with which to carry
on his spiritualistic trade."

There is both entertainment and instruction in Dr. Knerr's account
of a séance in which the spirit of an Indian and the mysterious
use of a drum were to form parts of the performance. He tells of
his success in getting some printer's ink on the drum-sticks just
before the lights were lowered, and of the bewildered astonishment
(when the lights were turned up after the Indian had manifested) at
the condition of the medium's hands. "How in the world printer's
ink could have gotten smeared over them while under the control of
'Deerfoot, the Indian,' no one, not even the medium, could fathom."
We may read how a medium who professed to materialize a "spirit"
right-hand while apparently holding his sitter's hand or arm with
both his own, was shown to imitate this double grip with one hand
and to do the hocus-pocus with the other. We may vary the nature of
the fraud almost indefinitely and observe how universal, how coarse,
how degrading it is, and how readily it may be induced to leave its
hiding-place to snatch at a cunningly offered bait,--until in the
end, if it were not so sad, it would be only ridiculous.

In the reports of the investigations of mediums, published by the
Society for Psychical Research (vol. iv.), we find accounts of the
performances of one Englinton, also with slate-writing, and whose
success, as described by enthusiastic sitters, does not fall short
of the miraculous. Yet the description of this wonder-worker's
doings by a competent observer, Professor Carvill Lewis, renders
the manifestations absolutely transparent. He sat intently watching
Englinton for an hour, and nothing happened; fearing a blank séance,
he purposely diverted his attention. The moment he looked away the
manifestations began, and he could see "the medium look down intently
toward his knees and in the direction of the slate. I now quickly
turned back my head, when the slate was brought up against the table
with a sharp rap." The manœuvre was repeated with the same result;
and while the writing was going on, Professor Lewis distinctly saw
"the movement of the central tendon in his wrist corresponding to
that made by his middle finger in the act of writing. Each movement
of the tendon was simultaneously accompanied by the sound of a
scratch on the slate." Again, for the answer to the request to define
"Idocrase," Englinton required the use of a dictionary, and left the
room for a minute; the answer was then written just as it is given
in Webster's dictionary; but, unfortunately, _albumina_ was read
for _alumina_. When the slate, which acts with a spring, was to be
closed, Englinton suddenly sneezed; when the writing was small and
faint, he shifted his position until he came within a few inches
of it; a postage stamp secretly glued across the two leaves of the
double slate prevented all manifestations; a double fee immediately
caused further manifestations, when, owing to the exhaustion of
power, such had just been declared to be impossible; and the writing
on the slates was identified by an expert as that of Englinton. It
was the same Englinton who was convicted of connivance with Mme.
Blavatsky in the production of a spurious theosophic marvel; and
it is to him that the following story, supplied by Mr. Padshah and
indorsed by Mr. Hodgson (the exposer of Mme. Blavatsky), relates:
Mr. Padshah and a friend had asked for Gujerati writing at a séance,
but without success. Mr. Padshah (without informing his friend) sent
anonymously to Englinton a poem in Gujerati; and the friend received
from the medium a minutely faithful copy of the same on a slate, as
the direct revelation of the spirits!


But all this accounts for only part of the problem. To convict every
medium of fraud is not a complete explanation of the appearance which
this belief presented in its most characteristic form some decades
ago, and still presents. It remains to account for the great success
of the movement; for the fact that so many have been deceived and so
few have really understood; to show why we are to believe the Seybert
Commission, and not credit the countless miracle-mongers. This is
psychologically the most interesting portion of the problem, and has
been very successfully treated by Mrs. Sidgwick, Mr. Hodgson, and Mr.
Davey, of the Society for Psychical Research.

There is a very broadspread notion that anybody can go to a
spiritualistic séance and give a reliable opinion as to whether
what he or she may chance to see is explicable as conjuring or
not. Especially where the right to one's opinion is regarded as a
corollary to the right of liberty, does this notion prevail. It is
probably not an exaggeration to maintain that most such claimants are
about as competent to form a trustworthy opinion on such a subject as
they are to pronounce upon the genuineness of a Syriac manuscript.
The matter is in some aspects as much a technical acquisition as is
the diagnosticating of a disease. It is not at all to the discredit
of any one's powers of observation or intellectual acumen to be
deceived by the performances of a conjurer; and the same holds true
of the professional part of mediumistic phenomena. Until this homely
but salutary truth is impressed with all its importance upon all
intending investigators, there is little hope of bringing about a
proper attitude towards these and kindred phenomena. We believe that
there will be an eclipse of the moon when the astronomer so predicts,
not because we can calculate the time or even understand how the
astronomer does it, but because that is a technical acquisition which
he has learned and we have not; and so with a thousand other and more
humble facts of daily life. Spiritualism, to a large extent, comes
under the same category; and observers who have acquainted themselves
with the possibilities of conjuring and the natural history of
deception, who by their training and endowment have fitted themselves
to be competent judges of such alleged ultra-physical facts--these
persons have the same right to our confidence and respect as a body
of chemists or physicians on a question within their province. It by
no means follows that all scientists are fitted for an investigation
of this kind, nor that all laymen are not; it does follow that a body
of trained and able observers, who are aware of the possibilities of
faulty observation and of the tendency to substitute hasty inference
for fact, who know something about deception as a psychological
characteristic, who have acquired or call to their aid the technical
requisites for such an investigation, are better fitted to carry it
to a logical outcome than are others, equally distinguished in other
directions and equally able, if you will, but who have not these
special qualifications. It follows that it is not fair for you to
set up what you think you have seen as overthrowing their authority;
even if you happen to be an unprejudiced and accurate observer and
have weighed the probability of your observations being vitiated by
one or other of the many sources of error in such observation, it is
only a small fact, though of course one worthy of notice. There is no
good reason why the average man should set so much store by his own
impressions of sense, when the fallibility of other witnesses is so
readily demonstrable.

Whatever of seeming dogmatism there is in this view is removed by the
experimental demonstration furnished by Messrs. Hodgson and Davey,
that the kind and amount of mal-observation and faulty description
which an average observer will introduce into the account of a
performance such as the medium gives, is amply sufficient to account
for the divergence between his report of the performance and what
really occurred. The success of a large class of tricks depends
upon diverting the observer's attention from the points of real
importance, and in leading him to draw inferences perfectly valid
under ordinary circumstances but entirely wrong in the particular
case. It must be constantly remembered that the judging powers are
at a great disadvantage in observing such performances, and that
it is a kind of judgment in which they have little practice. In
the intercourse of daily life a certain amount of good faith and
of confidence in the straightforwardness of the doings of others
prevents us from exercising that close scrutiny and suspicion here
necessary. We know that most of our neighbors have neither the
intention nor the sharpness to deceive us, and do not live on the
principle of the detective, who regards every one as dishonest
until proven to be otherwise. This attitude of extreme suspicion is
indispensable in dealing with the phenomena now under discussion.
It follows, therefore, that the layman cannot serve as a pilot for
himself or for others in such troubled waters. This, however, if duly
recognized, need not be a matter of concern. "This unpreparedness
and inobservancy of mind in the presence of a conjurer," says Mr.
Hodgson, is not "a thing of which any one who is not familiar with
the tricks already need be ashamed." Even a professional may be
nonplussed by a medium's performance, if he have no experience in the
special kind of sleight-of-hand required for the trick. This is the
experience of Mr. Harry Kellar; he at first declared himself unable
to explain slate-writing as a trick, but now can repeat the process
in a variety of ways, and with far greater skill than is shown by the
mediums. We may therefore approach Mr. Davey's investigation with
the assurance that, in all probability, we too should have failed
to detect what was really done, and should have rendered quite as
erroneous account of what we saw as did his actual sitters; and
according to our training and temperament we should have drawn our
several conclusions, and all of them variously wide of the mark.

Mr. Davey (who, by the way, was at one time deceived almost into
conversion by spiritualistic phenomena, and who, before he took up
the matter seriously, recorded his conviction that "the idea of
trickery or jugglery in slate-writing communications is quite out
of the question") was an expert amateur conjurer, and repeated the
slate-writing performances of such as Englinton with at least equal
skill. He arranged with Mr. Hodgson to give sittings to several
ladies and gentlemen, on the condition that they send him detailed
written accounts of what they had seen. He did not pose as a medium
nor accept a fee, but simply said that he had something to show
which his sitters were to explain as best they could, and with due
consideration of trickery as a possible mode of explanation. The
"medium" has here a decided advantage over Mr. Davey, because his
sitters come to him with a mental attitude that entertains, however
remotely, the possibility of witnessing something supernatural;
and this difference is sufficient to create an adjustment of the
powers of observation less fitted to detect trickery than if the
performer refrains from announcing himself as the go-between of the
supernatural. This is well illustrated in the reports of Mr. Davey's
sitters; for a few friends who were told beforehand that they were
to witness a sleight-of-hand performance, or were strongly led to
believe it such, made much less of a marvel of the performance than
those who had not been thus enlightened. "Nevertheless" (I am citing
from Mr. Podmore's résumé), "the effect produced was such that a
well-known professional conjurer expressed his complete inability
to explain the results by trickery; that no one of his sitters ever
detected his _modus operandi_; that most were completely baffled,
or took refuge in the supposition of a new form of electricity,
or 'a powerful magnetic force used in double manner: (1) a force
of attraction, and (2) that of repulsion'; and that more than
one spiritualist ascribed the phenomena to occult agency, and
regarded--perhaps still regard--Mr. Davey as a renegade medium."

Mr. Davey's performances, _as described_ by many of his sitters,
like the descriptions of the performances of many a medium, are
marvelous enough to demand the hypothesis of occult agency: "Writing
between a conjurer's own slates in a way quite inexplicable to
the conjurer; writing upon slates locked and carefully guarded by
witnesses; writing upon slates held by the witnesses firmly against
the under-surface of the table; writing upon slates held by the
witnesses above the table; answers to questions written secretly in
locked slates; correct quotations appearing on guarded slates from
books chosen by the witnesses at random, and sometimes mentally,
the books not touched by the 'medium'; writing in different colors
mentally chosen by the witnesses, covering the whole side of one
of their own slates; messages in languages unknown to the medium,
including a message in German, for which only a mental request had
been made, and a letter in Japanese in a double slate locked and
sealed by the witness; the date of a coin placed by the witness in a
sealed envelope correctly written in a locked slate upon the table,
the envelope remaining intact; a word written between slates screwed
together and also corded and sealed together, the word being chosen
by the witness after the slates were fastened by himself, etc.,
etc. And yet, though 'autographic' fragments of pencil were 'heard'
weaving mysterious messages between and under and over slates, and
fragments of chalk were seen moving about under a tumbler placed
above the table in full view, none of the sitters witnessed that best
phenomenon, _Mr. Davey writing_."

It must not be supposed that the errors of mal-description and
lapse of memory thus committed are at all serious in themselves; on
the contrary, they are mostly such as would be entirely pardonable
in ordinary matters. Mr. Hodgson places them in four classes. In
the first, the observer _interpolates_ a fact which really did not
happen, but which he was led to believe had occurred; he records that
he examined the slate, when he really did not. Secondly, for similar
causes, he _substitutes_ one statement for another closely like it;
he says he examined the slate minutely, when he really only did so
hastily. Thirdly, he _transposes_ the order in which the events
happened, making the examination of the slate occur at a later period
than when it really took place. Lastly, he _omits_ certain details
which he was carefully led to consider trivial, but which really
were most important. Such slight lapses as these are sufficient
to make a marvel of a clever piece of conjuring; add to this the
increased temptations for mal-observation afforded by the dim light
and mysterious surroundings of the medium, as well as by the
sympathetic attitude of the sitters, and the wide divergence between
the miraculous narratives of spiritualists and the homely deceptions
which they are intended to describe, is no longer a mystery.

It cannot be too strongly insisted upon how slight may be the clue
that holds the key to the explanation, how easy it is to overlook
it, how mysterious the performance becomes without it. It may be the
difference between placing the slate in a given position and starting
to do so when the hand of the medium naturally comes forward to
receive it; it may depend upon whether the slates were examined just
before or just after a certain detail in the performance which was
carefully not made prominent; it may depend upon the difficulty of
really seeing a quick and unexpected sleight-of-hand movement on the
part of a skilled performer; it may depend upon whether the question
asked was really of your own choosing, or was deftly led up to; it
may depend upon a score of other equally insignificant details upon
which the assurance of the average person, that such mal-observation
or misdescription did not occur, is almost worthless. These are
some of the slighter factors in the case; there may be much more
serious ones which lead not merely to exaggeration but to elaborate
falsification and distortion of truth, and to the emphatic assertion
of the most extravagant miracles, coupled usually with the assurance
that there was no possibility or room for deception. Mr. Davey's
performance was relatively a matter-of-fact test with critical and
intelligent sitters; hence we should expect the divergence between
report and reality to be far less serious than when the question
at issue is the demonstration of the supernatural by an appeal
to the religious fervor and to the emotional susceptibilities of
would-be believers and sympathetic propagandists. I shall return
to this difference of attitude in discussing the prepossession
in favor of the belief in Spiritualism; for the present, it is
sufficient to notice that under the most favorable combination of
circumstances--that is, an able, educated, and experienced observer
witnessing a definite performance in a calm, critical mood, and
carefully preparing a written account of his observations--the
difference between actual fact and the testimony of the witness is
still considerable, and the divergence often upon essential points.
We are accordingly justified in making allowance for double or treble
or a hundredfold more serious divergence between fact and report,
when we pass to decidedly less favorable conditions, such as those of
the ordinary spiritualistic test or séance; for these surely present
conditions least conducive to accuracy of observation or of record.

It is seldom that so direct and forcible an application of
experimental results to actual mental experiences occurring under
familiar circumstances can be made, as is the case in regard to
this noteworthy investigation of Messrs. Hodgson and Davey. This
investigation, almost at one stroke, throws a blinding light upon
the entire field of the phenomena; accounting in large part for the
vast aggregate of testimony in favor of miracles by actual witnesses,
demonstrating the readiness with which we may unwittingly deceive
ourselves by false observation and others by lapses of memory, as
to what we actually witnessed; and again presenting the nature of
these fallible characteristics of sense-perception and memory, of
inference and judgment, so strikingly and tangibly as to serve as
a classic illustration for the psychologist. The practical import
of these considerations has been quite generally disregarded by
upholders of the spiritualistic hypothesis, and has by no means been
fully appreciated by those who lay claim to an opinion upon the
significance of spiritualistic manifestations, and who discuss the
psychological questions which they involve.

It is pertinent to add that after Mr. Davey's death, Mr. Hodgson
felt free to publish a precise account of what Mr. Davey actually
did during the slate-writing séances.[7] The description from before
the footlights may thus be compared with the account from behind the
scenes; and although verbal accounts must always be weak and lack
the realistic touch of the _mise en scène_, yet this account makes
possible a kinetoscopic reproduction, as it were, of the original
sitting; we may observe the point at which the several sitters
committed their faults of defective observation or report; we may
examine at leisure the several steps in the performance which the
eyes overlooked in the hasty single glimpse afforded by the sitting
itself; we may attend to details which in the original sitting
reached only the outlying and evanescent phases of consciousness.
But, on the whole, the psychological comprehension of the "séance"
was sufficiently manifest without this disclosure of the _modus
operandi_; the disclosure has its value, however, in removing the
possibility of certain forms of criticism of the results, in
presenting data by which the specific nature of mal-observation may
be more concretely studied, and in convincing the more obstinate and
skeptical of how natural it is to err in matters beyond the range of
one's intimate experience.

A corroborative illustration of the subjective contribution to
deceptions of this type--the part that "always comes out of our
head," in Professor James's phrase--is furnished by M. Binet's series
of photographs, taken at the rate of ten or twelve per second, of the
hands of the performer during a sleight-of-hand performance; for the
photographs do not show the essential illusion which the eyes seem to
see, but which is really supplied by the fixed interpretative habits
of the spectators.

The conclusion thus experimentally arrived at by Messrs. Hodgson
and Davey is reinforced by other investigators. After witnessing a
séance that was merely a series of the simplest and most glaringly
evident tricks, Mrs. Sidgwick was expected to have had all her doubts
entirely removed, and was assured that what she had seen was better
than the materializations at Paris. "Experiences like this make one
feel how misleading the accounts of some completely honest witnesses
may be; for the materializations in Paris were those which the Comte
de Bullet had with Firman, where near relatives of the Count were
believed constantly to appear, and which are among the most wonderful
recorded in spiritualistic literature. And, after all, it appears
that these marvelous séances were no better than this miserable
personation by Haxby."

The Seybert Commission finds that "with every possible desire on the
part of spiritualists to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing
but the truth, concerning marvelous phenomena, it is extremely
difficult to do so. Be it distinctly understood that we do not for an
instant impute willful perversion of the truth. All that we mean is
that, for two reasons, it is likely that the marvels of spiritualism
will be, by believers in them, incorrectly and insufficiently
reported. The first reason is to be found in the mental condition of
the observer; if he be excited or deeply moved, his account cannot
but be affected, and essential details will surely be distorted.
For a second reason, note how hard it is to give a truthful account
of any common, everyday occurrence. The difficulty is increased a
hundredfold when what we would tell partakes of the wonderful. Who
can truthfully describe a juggler's trick? Who would hesitate to
affirm that a watch, which never left the eyesight for an instant,
was broken by the juggler on an anvil; or that a handkerchief was
burned before our eyes? We all know the juggler does not break the
watch, and does not burn the handkerchief. We watched most closely
the juggler's right hand, while the trick was done with his left. The
one minute circumstance has been omitted that would have converted
the trick into no-trick. It is likely to be the same in the accounts
of the most wonderful phenomena of spiritualism."

If we desire a concrete instance of this omission of an important
detail, we may turn once more to Dr. Furness's narrative. Certain
highly intelligent observers had described to him the marvelous
accomplishments of a Boston medium; and this is his own account:
"There are two tables in the room of séance, at one of which sits the
medium, at the other, the visitor. The visitor at his table writes
his question in pencil at the top of a long slip of paper, and,
after folding over several times the portion of the slip on which
his question is written, gums it down with mucilage and hands it to
the medium, who thereupon places on the folded and gummed portion
his left hand, and in a few minutes with his right hand writes down
answers to the concealed questions; these answers are marvels of
pertinency, and prove beyond a cavil the clairvoyant or spiritual
powers of the medium." Dr. Furness went to the medium, prepared his
slip of paper about as described, and thus continues: "As soon as he
took his seat, and laid the strip on his table before him, I rose and
approached the table so as to keep my paper still in sight; _the row
of books entirely intercepted my view of it_. The medium instantly
motioned to me to return to my seat, and, I think, told me to do so.
I obeyed, and as I did so could not repress a profound sigh. Why had
no one ever told me of that row of books?"


I have thus passed in review a series of facts and considerations
in pursuance of the general inquiry as to why the manifestations
produced in evidence of spirit agency deceive, and as to the origin
of the vast testimony in favor of spiritualistic marvels. It is
not necessary for the purposes of the psychological discussion to
demonstrate that all such manifestations are fraudulent; it is not
even necessary--although with limitless time and energy it might be
desirable--to examine all of the various kinds of manifestations
which the ingenuity of mediums has devised, or which have been
presented through mediumistic agency.[8] All that is necessary is
to examine a sufficient number of manifestations of acknowledged
standing and repute among spiritualists,--manifestations, be it
clearly understood, which have actually brought hundreds and
thousands of converts to its ranks, which have been persistently
brought forward as indisputable evidence of supernatural agency--and
to show that in reference to these, actual and extensive deception
has taken place. It would not be proper to declare that at this point
the psychologist's interest ends; for the centre of interest in such
problems may shift from one point to another. The central point in
the present discussion, however, is not what is the evidence in
favor of the spiritualistic hypothesis logically worth,--although
the considerations here presented have obvious and radical bearings
upon that question. If that were our quest, we should put the
spiritualists upon the defensive; for the burden rests upon them
to show the inadequacy of the natural explanation of the phenomena,
and to present the special facts that point to the correctness
of the spiritualistic as opposed to other explanations. We may
recognize, in passing, to what sorry excuses they are driven in its
defense: writing, they are driven to explain, is best produced in the
dark, because dark is "negative," and light is "positive"; if the
spirit that appears resembles the medium, that is an effect of the
materializing process; if a piece of muslin is found in the medium's
cabinet (and obviously used as drapery in the materializations),
it is supposed to have been brought by the spirits to clothe their
nakedness, or that the spirit which had brought the muslin "had to
vanish so quickly that it had no time to dematerialize the muslin;"
if writing does not appear when the slates are looked at, that is
because the "magnetism" of the eye interferes with this spiritual
process of writing; and did not Slade receive an express command
from the spirits forbidding him, on penalty of cutting off all
communication, to attempt to write on sealed slates? Some even claim
that fraud and genuine manifestations go hand in hand, or that
the former are the work of evil spirits counterfeiting conjuring
tricks. A prominent spiritualist openly announces that Slade "now
often cheats with an almost infantile audacity and naïveté, while at
the same or the next séance, with the same investigators," genuine
spiritualistic phenomena occur; while another disciple holds that the
true spirit in which to approach the study is an "entire willingness
to be deceived." Surely there is no duty resting upon scientific
men to consider the claims of a system that resorts to such idle and
extravagant hypotheses, and that fosters and prospers in such a moral

We may therefore profitably confine our attention to the
psychological lessons to be drawn from the record of fraud and
deception which the exploitation of Spiritualism has produced.[9]
When the day comes when the manifestations above considered shall be
definitely conceded to have a natural explanation along the general
lines here presented, and the spiritualists shall have taken refuge
in other and distinctively different manifestations, then it may
become advisable to prepare a revised account of the psychology of

There remains an important series of considerations that form an
essential factor in the psychological comprehension of the phenomena
of Spiritualism; this is the effect of bias and prepossession.
When by one means or another a strong faith in the reality of
spiritualistic manifestations has been induced; when the critical
attitude gives place to a state of extreme emotional tension; when,
perhaps, special griefs and trials give undue fervor to the desire
for a material proof of life after death, of communion with the
dear departed; when the convert becomes a defendant of the faith,
anxious to strengthen the proofs of his own conviction,--then we have
no longer mere unintentional lapses of observation and memory to
deal with, but actual mental blindness to obvious fraud and natural
explanations; then caution is thrown to the winds and marvels are
reported that are the result of expectant attention and imagination,
or of real illusion and hallucination. The blamelessness that may be
conceded for one's mystification by conjuring performances cannot
be extended to the present class of experiences; here it is not
unusualness of external arrangements that forms the main factor in
the deception, but the abnormal condition of the observer's mind.
The materialization séances offer a sufficient example of this form
of manifestation. To recognize a departed friend in the thinly
disguised form of the medium is most naturally interpreted as a mark
of weak insight or of strong prejudice. "Again and again," writes Dr.
Furness, "men have led round the circles the materialized spirits of
their wives and introduced them to each visitor in turn; fathers have
taken round their daughters, and I have seen widows sob in the arms
of their dead husbands. Testimony such as this staggers me. Have I
been smitten with color-blindness? Before me, as far as I can detect,
stands the very medium herself, in shape, size, form, and feature
true to a line, and yet, one after another, honest men and women at
my side, within ten minutes of each other, assert that she is the
absolute counterpart of their nearest and dearest friend; nay, that
she is that friend. It is as incomprehensible to me as the assertion
that the heavens are green, and the leaves of the trees deep blue.
Can it be that the faculty of observation and comparison is rare, and
that our features are really vague and misty to our best friends? Is
it that the medium exercises some mesmeric influence on her visitors,
who are thus made to accept the faces which she wills them to see?
Or is it, after all, only the dim light and a fresh illustration
of _la nuit tous les chats sont gris_?" In the confessions of an
exposed medium we read: "The first séance I held, after it became
known to the Rochester people that I was a medium, a gentleman from
Chicago recognized his daughter Lizzie in me after I had covered my
small mustache with a piece of flesh-colored cloth, and reduced the
size of my face with a shawl I had purposely hung up in the back of
the cabinet." With such powerful magicians as an expectant interest
and a strong prepossession, the realm of the marvelous is easily
entered; but the evidence thus accumulated may be said to have about
the same scientific value as the far more interesting entertainments
of the "Thousand and One Nights." "Sergeant Cox," Mr. Podmore tells
us, "adduced the hallucinatory feeling of a missing limb in proof
of a spiritual body; and a writer in the 'Spiritualist,' 'not yet
convinced of the spiritualistic theory,' could even pronounce the
after-images produced by gazing at a straw hat to be 'independent
of any known human agency.' From all of which it may be gathered
that the conscientious spiritualist, when on marvels bent, did not
display a frugal mind." Such opinions certainly justify Mr. Podmore's
remark that there are spiritualists, "not a few, who would be capable
of testifying, if their prepossessions happened to point that way,
that they had seen the cow jump over the moon; and would refer for
corroborative evidence to the archives of the nursery."

It is natural to suppose that prepossession of such intensity could
occur only amongst the less intelligent and less discerning portions
of mankind; but to a considerable extent, and certainly in sporadic
instances, this is not the case. The distinguished naturalist who
shares with Darwin the honor of contributing to modern thought the
conceptions of evolution, in his ardent advocacy of Spiritualism,
has recorded his assent to the belief that professional conjurers,
performing at the Crystal Palace in London, could not accomplish
their tricks without supernatural aid. With peculiar obliviousness
to the double-edgedness of his remark, he writes: "If you think
it all juggling, point out where the difference lies between it
and mediumistic phenomena." The same prepossession renders him so
impervious to the actual status of the evidence for Spiritualism as
to permit him to record so preposterous a statement as the following:
The physical phenomena of Spiritualism "have all, or nearly all, been
before the world for twenty years; the theories and explanations
of reviewers and critics do not touch them, or in any way satisfy
any sane man who has repeatedly witnessed them; they have been
tested and examined by skeptics of every grade of incredulity, men
in every way qualified to detect imposture or to discover natural
causes,--trained physicists, medical men, lawyers, and men of
business,--but in every case the investigators have either retired
baffled, or become converts." And in the latest utterances of the
same authority the failure to credit the marvels of Spiritualism is
put down along with the equal neglect of phrenology, as among the
signal failures of our "wonderful century." If any further instances
be required of the astounding effects of bias and prepossession in
matters spiritualistic, the vast literature of the subject may be
referred to as a sad but instructive monument of its influence.


The consideration of the effects of a prepossession in favor of a
belief in spirit-agency leads naturally to a consideration of the
origin of the belief. This tendency to believe in the return to
earth of the spirits of the departed, is probably to be viewed as a
form of expression of the primitive animism that dominates savage
philosophy, that pervades the historical development of religion
and of science, and that crops out in various ways throughout all
grades of civilization and all levels of society. Combined with
it is an equally fundamental love for the marvelous, and a more
or less suppressed belief in the significance of the obscure, the
mysterious, the occult. These belief-tendencies, accordingly, have
an anthropological significance and an historical continuity which
Mr. Lang thus presents: "These instances prove that, from the
Australian blacks in the Bush, who hear raps when the spirits come,
to ancient Egypt, and thence to Greece, and last, in our own time,
and in a London suburb, similar experiences real or imaginary are
explained by the same hypothesis. No 'survival' can be more odd and
striking, none more illustrative of the permanence, in human nature,
of certain elements. To examine these psychological curiosities may,
or may not, be 'useful,' but, at the lowest, the study may rank as
a branch of mythology or folk-lore." Mr. Tylor fully concords with
this view: "The received spiritualistic theory," he says, "belongs
to the philosophy of savages.... Suppose a wild North American
Indian looking on at a spirit-séance in London. As to the presence
of disembodied spirits, manifesting themselves by raps, noises,
voices, and other physical actions, the savage would be perfectly
at home in the proceedings; for such things are part and parcel
of his recognized system of nature." Mr. Podmore's comment upon
the spiritualistic hypothesis expresses a kindred thought. "As the
peasant referred the movement of the steam-engine to the only motive
force with which he was acquainted, and supposed that there were
horses inside, so the spiritualists, recognizing, as they thought,
in the phenomena the manifestations of will and intelligence not
apparently those of any person visibly present, invoked the agency of
the spirits of the dead. We can hardly call this belief an hypothesis
or an explanation; it seems indeed at its outset to have been little
more than the instinctive utterance of primitive animism."

The strongly rooted, anti-logical tendencies of our nature, thus
indicated, come to the surface in various and unexpected ways,
and give rise to views and cults that have much in common with
the manifestations and beliefs of Spiritualism. It is this very
community that forms one of the recognizable stigmata of such
movements; everywhere there is an appeal to the yearning for the
mysterious, for special signs and omens that may reinforce the
personal interpretation of the events of the universe, and reveal the
transcendence of the limitations of natural law. These movements,
too, seem at different epochs to flare up and spread into true
epidemics, utterly consuming all inherent foundations of logic and
common sense, in the white heat of the emotional interest with which
they advance. It seems to matter little how trivial, how absurd,
how vulgar, how ignorant, or how improbable the manifestations may
be, the passion for belief in their mysterious origin sets all
aside. Why returning spirits should devote their energies to playing
tambourines, and conjuring with slates, to Indian dances, and vapid,
bombastic, and ungrammatical "inspirational" speeches, seems not even
to be considered. It requires as little evidence and as ridiculous
evidence to prove a spirit to a spiritualist as it did to prove a
witch to a witch-finder. Those whose feelings are not appealed to by
the doctrines of Spiritualism will assuredly never be attracted by
its logic.

The psychologist who observes the natural history of the belief in
Spiritualism,--its origin, and mode of propagation, its blossoming
and fruitage, is naturally led to consider the nature of its decline.
That it declines rapidly in the presence of newer rivals for popular
favor, appealing to much the same mental and emotional traits, and
therefore finding a similar constituency, has been made evident
in the vicissitudes of its career. It suffered considerably at the
period when the meteoric showers of Theosophy passed over our planet;
it is subject to the waning of interest that always accompanies
familiarity, and that makes even the most exciting experiences pale
with time. Such familiarity also gives opportunity for the return
of a calm and critical investigative attitude, such as the last two
decades, in particular, have brought about. That such investigation
is destined seriously to influence opinion, and eventually to triumph
over error and superstition, no one with confidence in the ultimate
rationality of mankind will be inclined to doubt. In the case of
Spiritualism, logic will find a worthy ally in the more discerning
development of the moral sensibilities which true culture always
brings with it. When it is realized that a system that aims to
instruct men in regard to beliefs appealing most earnestly and deeply
to the human heart appears in the light of exact investigation as
a tottering framework, held together by gross fraud, covered over
with innocent self-deception, but also with vulgar sham; when it is
realized that under the shelter of such a system men and women all
over our land are daily and hourly preying upon the credulity of
simple-minded folk, and obtaining a livelihood by means for which
the law provides punishment,--the moral indignation following upon
this realization will impart vigor to the protest against such
practices, which a mere sense of their irrationality would fail to
incite. The moral and æsthetic aversion which many of the practices
and tenets of Spiritualism arouses in those whose ideals are sound
and steadfast may prove to be a more serious menace to the spread of
the belief, a more potent source of its decay, than even its inherent
inconsistencies and improbabilities.


[6] _Preliminary Report of the Commission appointed by the University
of Pennsylvania to investigate Modern Spiritualism_, Philadelphia,
1887, Lippincott, p. 159. The members of the commission were: Dr.
William Pepper, Dr. Joseph Leidy, Dr. G. S. Koenig, Prof. R. E.
Thompson, Prof. G. S. Fullerton, Dr. H. H. Furness, Mr. Coleman
Sellers, Dr. J. W. White, Dr. C. B. Knerr, and Dr. S. Weir Mitchell.

[7] _Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research_, vol. viii.

[8] I desire not to seem to overlook the fact that there
are manifestations presented by Spiritualism of a different
character from those above considered. There are, for example,
the inspirational messages revealed through the medium when in a
trance-like condition, and which are supposed to rest for their
proof of supernatural origin on the testimony of the medium or
upon their internal content. The psychological status of these and
similar mediumistic phenomena must be interpreted in the light of our
knowledge of hypnotic and allied conditions, of automatic writing,
of modifications of conscious and subconscious personality. I do
not consider that the evidence which these phenomena contribute
towards the establishment of the probability of the truth of the
spiritualistic hypothesis at all affects the estimate arrived at in
the main discussion. That there are other than the physical phenomena
of Spiritualism should, however, not be overlooked.

[9] There is a minor problem of psychological interest in regard
to the fraud apparent in these manifestations, that is worthy of
consideration: namely, the motives for such fraud. That greed for
gain and notoriety constitute two of the main inducements is obvious
enough; that the latter is a far more widespread and variable mental
inducement than we ordinarily realize, has been shown by the cases
in which fraud has been detected. In addition we must recognize the
existence of deception as the expression of a deep-seated instinct
abnormally present in not a few persons. It is deception for the
love of imposing upon humanity, mingled somewhat with a love of the
conspicuousness and interest which the deceiver's position brings
with it; and this often exists where the motives for it cannot be
accurately determined. Cases of deception on the part of children,
on the part of those who present suspicions of the hysterical
temperament, and cases of so-called disinterested deception, have
been collected in sufficient number to make the criticisms which are
advanced against professional mediums quite as cogent in the case
of unpaid and private mediums. I may refer to the discussion of the
subject by Mr. Podmore. _Studies in Psychical Research_, p. 185, sqq.


Important periods in the history of science are as likely to be
characterized by changes in attitude towards the accepted body of
knowledge, as by the extension of its realm through new discoveries.
The contrast between the undeveloped and the advanced stages of a
science is as well realized by noting the totally different mode
in which facts are viewed, as by observing the vast increase in
the range of recorded fact. The alchemist and the chemist have far
more in common in the way of operations and material than in their
conceptions of the purposes and the method of their pursuits. The
astrologer and the astronomer are again most characteristically
differentiated by their motives and point of view; both observe
the positions of planet and star, and calculate orbits and phases
and oppositions; but nothing is more absurdly irrelevant to the
astronomer's purpose than the hope of predicting the fortunes of
men. A more modern example of a similar relation is that between
phrenology and the physiological doctrine of the localization of
functions in the brain. And alchemist, astrologer, and phrenologist
have this in common: that they aimed at immediately practical ends.
The one hoped to create wealth, the other to foretell and control
fate, and the third to insure success by discovering the earmarks
of natural gifts. They distorted the facts of nature, and in the
narrow pursuit of a practical goal, substituted for realities their
own fanciful theories, or the elaborations of their defective logic.
Science advances most favorably when the best energies are devoted to
a comprehension of fundamental principles and to the accumulation of
data under the guidance of the interests to which these principles
give rise; and when the work proceeds with the confidence that, more
indirectly but more surely, will the richest practical benefits thus
accrue. The marked contrast exemplified in the history of chemistry
and astronomy, and in a more limited way of brain physiology, make
it proper to speak of the very different pursuits with which they
were associated as their antecedents and not as early stages of their
own development. Intimate as may be the relations between the two
historically, the one represents but the forerunner of the other;
it indicates in what direction interest guided thought before that
changed interest appeared, which made possible the germination and
growth of the true science. Only when the weeds had been rooted out
did the flowers begin to thrive.


The history of hypnotism furnishes another and a varied illustration
of a similar relation. If we accept as the essential fact of modern
hypnotism the demonstration of an altered nervous and mental state,
in which suggestibility is increased to a quite abnormal degree;
in which, accordingly, functions not ordinarily under the control
of voluntary effort become so controllable, and there are induced
simple and complex modifications of physiological and psychological
activities,--then the condition of opinion that prevailed prior
to the recognition of the true significance of the phenomena in
question, the false and unfounded and mystical conceptions concerning
them, may properly be grouped together as the antecedents of
hypnotism. The entire aspect of the problem under the one régime
is strikingly different from its appearance under the reign of the

In the presentation, from the point of view of modern hypnotism, of
the more important steps in the tortuous and laborious transition
from unbridled speculation and fantastic practices to a rational
and consistent body of truth, a twofold interest may be maintained;
the one, in the fluctuation of opinion antecedent to the scientific
recognition of hypnotism, and the other in the _dramatis personæ_
concerned in this history and their contributions, great and small,
for good or for ill, to that gradual and irregular change of attitude
the tested residue of which modern hypnotism embodies. The latter
interest will form a helpful guide for selection among the complex
sequence of events with which we shall have to deal. Accounts of the
well-established phenomena of hypnotism are so readily accessible,
that it seems sufficient to emphasize these two fundamental
points--the ultimate recognition of an altered psycho-physiological
state, and of the dominant part which suggestion plays in the
development of hypnotic phenomena--and to accept them as furnishing
the principles according to which the survey of the antecedents of
hypnotism is to be conducted.

It will appear that much of the conflict which the present tale
unfolds is the conflict between the rational investigation of
intelligible facts and the unwarranted attempts at an explanation
of alleged miracles,--a phase of the conflict between science and
mysticism. The imperfectly understood is apt to be explained by the
still more obscure; totally imaginary forms of energy are called
upon to account for poorly observed effects; and so the mystery
deepens, superstition spreads, and charlatanism finds a fertile
field for its display. This conflict in the present instance is by
no means confined to the past; the mystical and the miraculous, or
at least the unintelligible side of hypnotic phenomena still finds
its exponents. Accounts of observations and experiments purporting
to demonstrate that hypnotism not only presents hyperæsthesia and
exaggerated forms of mental activity, but transcends all normal
psychological processes and reveals a hidden world in which other
forces and other modes of mental communication freely appear,
are widely circulated and sometimes with the authority of names
of repute. But the more discerning, the more exact, and the more
logical students of hypnotism, cannot accept such observations, and
have often been able to point out the unmistakable sources of error
which gave rise to them. The shrewdness of hypnotized subjects, the
unconscious suggestion of the operator, looseness of observation and
theoretical bias, exercise the same influence for error to-day as
they presented in the antecedents of hypnotism.

In reading the story of former opinion, it is of advantage to keep in
mind the well-established facts regarding hypnotism, not alone for
the sake of recognizing what is important and what unessential, what
are the instructive and what the irrelevant facts and details, but
also for the equal advantage of securing data for the interpretation
of phenomena, which in the absence of present-day knowledge, and in
the misleading accounts current at the time, naturally gave rise
to extravagant forms of explanation. Our knowledge of insanity,
hysteria, and trance-conditions, of the influence of the mind
over the body, of the nature of illusion and hallucination, of
prepossession and suggestion, shed a strong light upon religious
ecstasy, upon demon-possession, upon cures by shrines and relics,
or by the king's touch, upon the contagion of psychic epidemics,
upon the action of magnetized tree or "mesmerized" water, upon the
performances of "sensitives" and somnambulists, and the sensational
scenes enacted about the "baquet." Our historical survey might
accordingly include an account of the states of insensibility and of
the potent power of suggestion, which occurred in connection with
the religious observances in the practices of ancient civilizations,
and have always formed, as they still form, a characteristic cult
among primitive peoples. That such states, closely corresponding
to the hypnotic trance, are induced for magical purposes among
savages is more than probable; equally clear is it that interspersed
through the venerable record of magic and witchcraft and ecstasy
and exorcism and miraculous cures, are accounts of states, induced
usually by religious fervor, which are strongly suggestive of
some of the characteristics of the hypnotic condition. But in the
interests of unity and brevity it will be best to limit attention
to those ancestors of hypnotism, of whose methods and practices we
have fairly definite information. More especially does the career of
Mesmer supply the most favorable starting-point of the survey; yet
some notice should be taken of those who preceded him in achieving
reputation as healers of disease.


One of the best known of these healers was Valentine Greaterick
(or Greatrakes), who was born in Ireland in 1628, and who came to
England (about 1665) by invitation of Lord Conway, upon a mission
thus quaintly expressed: to cure "that excellent lady of his, the
pains of whose _head_, as great and as unparalleled as they are,
have not made her more known and admired at home and abroad, than
have her other endowments." Lady Conway seems to have been intensely
devoted to mystical pursuits, and assembled at Ragley Castle such men
as Greatrakes, Rev. Joseph Glanvill, F.R.S., author of _Sadducismus
Triumphatus_, Dr. Henry Moore, the Cambridge Platonist, and others
of whom Mr. Lang speaks as "an unofficial but active society for
psychical research, as that study existed in the seventeenth
century." They told tales of "levitation" and witchcraft and the
movements of bodies by unseen agencies, at all of which one or the
other had been an eyewitness; and Greatrakes seems to have taken as
prominent a part in these as in the healing proceedings. Greatrakes
was called to his career by a special indication of providence--"he
heard a voyce within him (audible to none else) encouraging to the
tryals; and afterwards to correct his unbelief the voice aforesaid
added this signe, _that his right hand should be dead, and that the
stroaking of his left arme should recover it again_, the events
whereof were fully verified by him three nights together by a
successive infirmity and cure of his arme." While he failed to cure
Lady Conway's headaches "he wrought a few miracles of healing among
rural invalids," and seems to have been particularly successful
with nervous complaints. "I saw him," writes a contemporary, "put
his Finger into the Eares of a man who was very thick of Hearing,
and immediately he heard me when I asked him very softly severall

The status of the medical science of the day is well reflected in
the comment of Henry Stubbe, physician at Stratford upon Avon, from
whose contemporary account our knowledge of Greatrakes is obtained.
For explanation of the cures, he suggests "that God had bestowed upon
Mr. _Greatarick_ a peculiar Temperament, or composed his Body of
some particular Ferments, the _Effluvia_ whereof, being introduced
sometimes by a light, sometimes by a violent Friction, should restore
the Temperament of the Debilitated parts, reinvigorate the Blood,
and dissipate all heterogeneous Ferments out of the Bodies of the
Diseased, by the Eyes, Nose, Mouth, Hand and Feet." However crude may
seem this cure by the "Precipitation of the Morbifique Ferment," the
theoretical position of Mesmer is not less hypothetical, dogmatic,
and gratuitous. Indeed, to Greatrakes's and his biographer's credit,
it should be noted that they recognized the distinction between
functional and organic complaints; that Mr. Greatarick "meddles"
only with such diseases as "have their Essence either in the masse
of Blood and Spirit (or nervous liquors) or in the particular
Temperament of the parts of the Body," that he cures no disease
"wherein there is a decay of Nature." "This is a confessed truth by
him, he refusing still to touch the Eyes of such as their sight has
quite perished." None the less his cures were regarded as miraculous,
and Dr. Stubbe tells us that "as there is but one Mr. Greatarick,
so there is but one Sunne"; and to dispel incredulity in regard to
these wonders, he adds: "We are all Indians and Salvages in what we
have not accustomed our senses: What was conjuring in the last age is
Mathematiques in this. And if we do but consider the sole effects of
Gun-powder, as it is severally to be used, and revolve with ourselves
what we would have thought if we had been told those Prodigies, and
not seen them; will we think it strange if men think the actions
of extraordinary Ferments impossible?" But to leave the "Ferments"
for the recorded account of what was done, we can only note that
Greatrakes's methods consisted mainly of strokings and passes and
in driving the pains from one point to another until they went out
at the fingers or toes. There is nothing recorded that definitely
suggests the production of the hypnotic state; but direct suggestion,
reinforced by manipulations, obviously had much to do with the cures.
They clearly approximate more closely to the faith-cure methods of
to-day than to the phenomena of hypnotism.

The latter half of the eighteenth century seems to have offered
social, intellectual, and political conditions peculiarly favorable
to the success of fantastic schemers, of propagandists of
strange philosophies, and advertisers of supernatural procedures
for short-circuiting the road to health, wealth, knowledge, and
immortality. In this period there appeared Swedenborg's inspired
revelations and philosophic cult; Cagliostro's extravagant claims of
personal power and bold-faced impostures; Schrepfer, who combined
with Masonic mysteries a striking anticipation of the materializing
séances of modern spiritualism; Gassner, the priest, exorcist,
and healer; and finally Mesmer, the founder of animal magnetism,
and through it the parent of an endless progeny of unproved and
unprovable systems, and of equally irrational practices.

It is worth while to consider for a moment the career of Gassner, if
for no other reason than that Mesmer witnessed Gassner's procedures,
and that their methods have some points in common,--in particular the
calling out of acute symptoms, or "a crisis," as a means of cure.
Johann Joseph Gassner, a Suabian priest, appeared as a curer of
disease about 1773; he regarded most maladies as of Satanic origin,
and attempted cures by driving out the demon of disease by appeal to
divine agency. After inquiry regarding the nature of the complaint
and its symptoms, he would urge the patient to have faith, and
perhaps would offer a prayer for his recovery; he would then call out
the various symptoms of pain, stiffness, weakness, and the like, and
at the word "_Cesset_" these symptoms would disappear. "_Cesset ista
Debilitas_,"--the patient becomes as strong and as active as though
he had never been sick. "_Modo adsit Febris tantum in Manu et Brachio
dextro_,"--the right hand becomes cold and numb, and trembles,
the pulse in this arm is rapid, feverish, and strong, but slow and
normal in the left. "_Cesset in ista Manu et adeat sinistram_,"--the
left arm now becomes as the right had been, and the pulse of the
right is now normal; and so the treatment proceeds, accompanied by
the invocation, "_Præcipio hoc in nomine Jesu_." This process of
alternation of pain and its remission is continued, until at length
the patient is dismissed as cured. The status of Gassner's cures,
except for their more pronounced religious character, is much the
same as those of Greatrakes; both exhibit the effects of suggestion,
but neither recognized the process of suggestion, nor gives evidence
of having produced an abnormal condition. This, however, is by no
means excluded; and Greatrakes's account of the insensibility of his
own arm, as well as the similar state induced in his patients by
Gassner, indicate a high degree of suggestibility.


Friedrich Anton Mesmer was born in Iznang, on the Lake of Constance,
May 23, 1734; destined by his parents for the church, he turned from
the study of theology to that of law, and again changed to medicine.
He graduated as a physician from the University of Vienna in 1776,
and in his doctor's thesis upon "The Influence of the Planets on
the Human Body," he attempted to revive the underlying doctrines of
astrology from a medical point of view. He defined the "quality of
animal bodies, rendering them susceptible to the influence of heaven
and earth," as "animal magnetism;" and regarded the action involved
as analogous to that of the moon upon the ebb and flow of the tide.
The fluctuations and periodicities of disease he sought to produce
artificially, and therefore called his theory the "imitative theory,"
the object being to imitate the ups and downs of nature. He records
his first practical test on the 28th of July, 1774, when he placed
magnets upon the chest and feet of his patient, a young lady, who
was suffering from a variety of morbid symptoms. Shortly thereafter
"she felt internally a painful streaming of a very fine substance
going now here and now there, but finally settling in the lower
part of her body, and freeing her from all further attacks for six
hours." Somewhat later, when the same patient chanced to be suffering
from one of her attacks, and was lying unconscious, she responded
by violent movements to the slightest touch of Mesmer, but remained
entirely unresponsive to the manipulations of a bystander. One of
six cups was then chosen by Mesmer's visitor to be impressed with
magnetic properties. Contact with this cup, which Mesmer had touched,
produced in the patient movements of her hands and expressions of
pain. Mesmer's influence made itself felt at a distance of eight
steps, and even when a third person stood between the two. These
simple observations were the humble beginnings of the practices of
animal magnetism.

The details of Mesmer's early doings are of special value, for in
them we may expect to discover the true nature of the man and his
system; our knowledge of them is derived mainly from the account,
written some thirty-five years after the events, by a not too
discerning eyewitness. They give a sufficiently definite picture
of his manner and methods. Magnets and electric machines, passes
and strokings, fantastic dress and equally fantastic manipulations,
he utilized even before he became well known. The method was always
the same; calling out pains and paroxysms and crises, and in turn
allaying the symptoms thus aroused until the patient was pronounced
cured. From the first, too, he was anxious to secure the recognition
of authoritative bodies of scientific men. Early in 1775, Mesmer
proposed his theory for acceptance to several learned societies, but
received no encouragement. His use of magnets (which he probably
derived from the astronomer, Hell) had aroused the opposition of his
fellow-practitioners, and his professed cure of a protégé of Maria
Theresa involved him in a somewhat unseemly dispute, ultimately
necessitating his departure from Vienna. In February, 1778, he came
to Paris, where he entered upon a remarkable but brief career,
terminating somewhat abruptly in 1784.

Mesmer has left us a narrative of his doings during the first three
of these years--a record devoted almost exclusively to a wearisome
account of his controversies with the various learned societies of
Paris. He appealed to the French Academy of Sciences and to the Royal
Medical Society, announcing a most wonderful physical discovery, to
describe which suitable words were as yet lacking. Mesmer wished
these societies to sanction his discovery, not to act as judges of
its truth, of which he says there can be no reasonable doubt. He
offered them a series of dogmatic propositions, setting forth the
nature of animal magnetism, and apparently desired the cures to
be considered a subordinate part of the issue. He was, however,
continuously engaged in curing disease. His most valuable convert
was M. Deslon, a member of the Medical Faculty of Paris, a man of
considerable influence, who at once espoused Mesmer's cause with
unlimited enthusiasm. He invited a dozen of his colleagues to meet
Mesmer at dinner, and had read to them an exposition of the system
of animal magnetism. The company seem not to have been very deeply
impressed; for it was with difficulty that Deslon induced three
of them to associate themselves with him in an investigation; and
they soon deserted him, when their requests for simple, unambiguous
tests and their explanation of the observed effect as due to an
overstimulated imagination, were alike disregarded. The point at
issue in these tests seems to have been whether Mesmer in his own
person possessed an influence or magnetic radiation, which brought
him into rapport with his magnetically sensitive subjects; but Mesmer
apparently regarded any test that reflected the skeptical attitude
of the investigators as unbecomingly suspicious. Deslon, however,
remained a staunch believer in the new system, and defended its cause
before the Faculty of Medicine, dwelling upon the honor of having
it presented to them, and the eternal glory they would merit by
accepting "the most important discovery at which the human mind had
ever marveled." But the Faculty voted to reject the propositions, and
Deslon lost his seat in their body.

This adverse action, together with Mesmer's threat to leave France,
seems to have swelled the enthusiasm in his behalf to enormous
proportions. He tells us that he received a letter from the queen
urging him not to shirk his duty to mankind by leaving France at this
juncture, that he was visited by a high official in behalf of the
king offering him an annuity of 20,000 livres, with an additional
10,000 livres for the rental of an establishment for operating his
cures. Mesmer insisted upon the formal and irrevocable admission of
the existence and utility of his discovery as preliminary to all
negotiations, and demanded, in addition to the annuity, the gift of
an estate; but this was a step farther than royal protection would

Our information regarding the latter portion of Mesmer's Parisian
career is meagre. In 1781 Deslon published his work on "Animal
Magnetism," in which he repeats with undiminished enthusiasm his
praises of Mesmer, describes the marvelous cures he has witnessed and
prophesies the eventual triumph of the system. Shortly thereafter
Mesmer went to the Spa; Deslon remained in Paris and began to treat
patients by animal magnetism and with great success. He formed a
special private class of educated men and women, from each of whom
he received ten louis d'or per month. Upon hearing of this, Mesmer
hurried back to Paris and found his former adherents divided into
Mesmerists and Deslonists. He then (October, 1782) denounced Deslon
as one who had betrayed his secrets and was misrepresenting the
system. Through the efforts of friends, an inner circle--the first
of the "Loges d'Harmonie"--was formed, consisting of one hundred
members, each of whom paid one hundred louis d'or for the privilege
of hearing Mesmer's exposition of his whole secret. Dissensions
and discussions continued to arise; one of his hearers said "that
those who know the secret are in greater doubt than those who are
ignorant of it;" and M. Berthellot, the chemist, who in paying his
fee reserved the right of criticism, was so irritated at the pedantic
and ridiculous treatment to which he was subjected, that he upset
the "baquet" and left the room in a violent rage. Matters went on in
this way, with frequent propositions of a scientific examination, and
as frequent refusals on the part of Mesmer to have further dealings
with scientific societies, until, in 1784, the famous commission was
appointed by the throne.

This commission was composed of four members of the Faculty of
Medicine, MM. Borie (who at his death was succeeded by M. Majault),
Sallin, Darcet, Guillotin, to whom were added five members of the
Academy of Sciences, MM. Franklin, Leroy, Bailly, Lavoisier, and
de Bory. Their report describes in scrupulous and careful detail
everything that they witnessed at the house of Deslon, who carefully
and circumstantially assured them that Mesmer's procedures and his
own were quite the same; and who allowed them the greatest freedom
in examinations and tests. They tried the treatment themselves, but
felt no effects. They emphasized the fact that public performances
in which excitement and contagion have full play are more successful
than private ones, and that the subjects most easily influenced
are to be found among the ignorant rather than among the educated
classes. They blindfolded one of their subjects, and pretended to
perform the usual passes, while they really did nothing; yet the
expected results ensued. It was believed that when the subject
came in contact with a tree that had been magnetized, the symptoms
of an approaching crisis would be manifested; accordingly they had
a tree in Franklin's garden magnetized, but their subject went to
four other trees and at each exhibited the usual phenomena. From
such experiments, ingeniously devised and varied, the commissioners
concluded that the effects witnessed were due to an overstimulated
imagination, to an anticipation of the result, to excitement and
contagion. "Let us represent to ourselves," they say, "the situation
of a person of the lower class, and in consequence ignorant,
attacked with a distemper and desirous of a cure, introduced with
some degree of ceremony to a large company partly composed of
physicians, where an operation is performed upon him, totally new,
and from which he persuades himself beforehand that he is about to
experience prodigious effects. Let us add to this that he is paid
for his compliance, that he thinks he shall contribute more to our
satisfaction by professing to experience sensations of some kind, and
we shall have definite causes to which to attribute these effects."

There was presented at the same time a secret report by the same
commission, dwelling upon the dangers to morality inherent in these
practices. A commission appointed by the Royal Medical Society
reported to the same effect. They found in all their experiments that
an expectation of the result was necessary to its accomplishment,
and they directed attention anew to the entire lack of proof of
any of Mesmer's propositions regarding the magnetic fluid. To this
second report there was one dissenting voice, that of Jussieu, the
botanist, who, while rejecting all belief in animal magnetism, yet
curiously regarded heat, as developed by friction, as an essential
factor of the phenomena. Furthermore, M. Thouret reported, by request
of the same society, upon the literature and history of the doctrine,
and traced the notions which Mesmer advanced to older writers; and
showed the similarity of his practices to those of former astrologers
and mystics. In opposition to these reports, of which more than
twenty thousand copies were issued, Mesmer denounced the government,
the scientific societies, the medical profession, and all who had
opposed him. His attitude may be inferred from the closing words of a
letter to Franklin. "I am like you, Sir, one of those whom one cannot
oppress without danger, one of those men, who, because they have done
great things, dispose of insult as other men dispose of authority. If
any one like you, Sir, cares to try it, I have the world as my judge,
and if the world can forget the good I have done, and prevent the
good I wish to do, I have posterity as my avenger."

These adverse reports were most influential in terminating Mesmer's
career in Paris; but in this they were assisted by other events.
Several deaths at the "baquet" alarmed his adherents, and were
promptly turned to account by his opponents. The death of M. Court
de Gébelin, an author and prominent man of the day, was the occasion
of the characteristic comments of the period; and especially so as
he had recently and publicly announced his indebtedness for renewed
health to Mesmer. One of the journals noted his death thus: "M.
Court de Gébelin vient de mourir, guéri par le Magnetisme animale;"
another suggested for his epitaph:--

      "Ci gît ce pauvre Gébelin,
      Qui savait grec, hébreu, latin;
      Admirez tous son héroïsme,
      Il fut martyr de magnetisme."

A comedy entitled "Docteurs Modernes" brought the "baquet" upon the
stage, ridiculed Mesmer and his procedures, and hinted with no great
delicacy at the abuses to which the popularity of his treatment might
give rise. In England the system was thus satirized:


      Take of the chymical oil of Fear, Dread,
          and Terror, each                         4 ounces;
          of the rectified Spirits of Imagination  2 pounds;

    Put all these ingredients into the bottle of fancy,
    digest for several days, and take forty drops at about
    nine in the morning, or a few minutes before you
    receive a portion of the Magnetic Effluvia. They will
    make the effluvia have a surprising effect, etc., etc.

In 1785 there appeared a mock funeral oration upon Mesmer,
travestying with endless extravagance his pretensions and methods.
Caricature was a favorite mode of attack; and the examples that have
escaped destruction vividly preserve the spirit and the local color
of the times. Yet both learned and unlearned opinion was divided,
and the press was the medium of eulogy as well as of denunciation.
Of still greater importance were the discoveries of the Marquis de
Puységur, one of Mesmer's disciples, which diverted the interest in
animal magnetism into a new channel; and, finally, the turmoil of
the French Revolution drove Mesmerism into obscurity, and Mesmer to
a retreat in the town of Frauenfeld, near the lake of Constance.
Our last picture of Mesmer shows him living in simple seclusion,
complaining of the world's treatment of him, performing cures among
those about him, and cherishing to the end his belief in animal
magnetism. He died March 5, 1815, at Meersburg, where he lies buried.


The system of animal magnetism Mesmer summed up in a series of
twenty-seven propositions presented entirely without proof, asserting
the existence of an "universally diffused subtle fluid, appearing
in all portions of the celestial system, and affecting the animal
economy by insinuating itself into the nerves; it has properties
analogous to that of the magnet, may be reflected like light,
propagated like sound, and may be increased, opposed, accumulated,
transmitted to another object, and transported; furthermore this
principle, which is, in a way, a sixth sense artificially acquired,
will cure nervous disease directly, and others indirectly by
provoking salutary crises, thus bringing the art of healing to
perfection." Mesmer's methods varied at different stages of his
career. The use of magnets as the main or exclusive factor in his
cures, he seems to have abandoned before going to Paris; at first
he made the passes with his hands, or with an iron rod, directing
his fingers toward his patient, and emphasizing these movements by
strokings and rubbings. The object of these manipulations was to
concentrate and send out the magnetism with which his body was
saturated. This magnetism he could transfer to others or to inanimate
objects. "I have magnetized paper, bread, wool, silk, leather,
stone, glass, water, different metals, wood, men, dogs,--in one
word, all that I have touched, so that these substances produced the
same effects on the patients as the magnets." When his increasing
success no longer allowed him to attend personally to all his
patients, he employed a valet toucher, or imparted the curative
properties to water, to a tree, etc. At the height of his career he
devised the "baquet," which he describes as a "small open vessel
on a three-legged support, from which emerged some bent iron rods,
the points of which could be easily applied to the outer parts of
the body, such as the head, breast, stomach, etc." The baquet and
other paraphernalia served to concentrate and impart the fluid that
issued abundantly from Mesmer's person. An eyewitness thus describes
the results of the treatment: "Some patients experienced pains and
fever; others fell into unusual and severe convulsions, frequently
lasting for three hours; others became faint and dazed, and but
few remained unaffected. There were manifested the most violent
involuntary distortions of the limbs; partial suffocation, heaving of
the abdomen, wild glances, were observed; one patient utters piercing
cries, another has fits of laughter, while a third bursts into tears.
Nothing can break this spell save the command of the magnetizer,
and whether the patients be in the wildest frenzy or in the deepest
stupor, a word, look, or nod of the master is sufficient to bring
them to consciousness. This violent condition was technically termed
a crisis, and deprived the patients of all consciousness so that
none could at all remember what had been felt, heard, or done while
in this condition; and yet they were so sensitive that one could not
come in contact with them, not even touch the chair on which they
sat, without causing fright and convulsions which only the master
could pacify." As the cures progressed, the patients lost their
sensitiveness to the magnetic fluid. The scenes about the baquet have
come to be the most usual association with the name of Mesmer. The
dimly lit room, the odor of incense, the mellow tones of the organ,
the hushed silence and anxious expectancy; the entrance of Mesmer,
wand in hand, clad in striking robes, to initiate the crises that
then spread by the contagion of nervous disorder; all these reflect
the intellectual and social conditions of the time, and are most
naturally interpreted as the adaptation of a shrewd adventurer to his

In the light of this account it becomes clear that while an
altered condition of the nervous system and a state of increased
suggestibility were constantly manifested in Mesmer's _salle des
crises_, yet Mesmer did not at all appreciate the nature of the
process by which the effects were produced, nor the condition which
he brought about in his patients. In brief, Mesmerism in the hands
of Mesmer was clearly only an antecedent of hypnotism. Yet certain
of the more detailed descriptions of the scenes about the baquet
unmistakably indicate that some of Mesmer's subjects went into a true
hypnotic condition; that as many or more were the victims of more or
less complex hysterical attacks is equally clear. But to this aspect
of the phenomena, Mesmer was entirely inattentive. His attention was
devoted to the elaboration of the physical agencies which in his
view were the cause of the phenomena, and to the production of the
rather violent symptoms of the crisis which he always regarded as an
essential part of the curative procedure. He elaborated the baquet,
filled it with bottles and glass and iron filings and water arranged
in fanciful ways, and in some mystical sense suggestive of magnetic
influences. Mesmerism thus consisted of the induction of crises by
animal magnetism, as concentrated in Mesmer's person and assisted by
the baquet, by passes and physical manipulations. Farther than this
Mesmer never went in his comprehension of the phenomena that we now
know as hypnotism. Indeed, when he was confronted with Puységur's
subjects in the somnambulic state, he regarded the production of this
true hypnotic condition as foolish, and considered it to be only a
subordinate phase of the magnetic crisis. Towards the close of his
life, and when the turmoil and the glory of his Parisian career
were memories of the past, when he had had abundant opportunity for
reflection and for the observation of the altered condition which the
status of Mesmerism had assumed, Mesmer still maintained unaltered
the dogmas of animal magnetism.

In criticism of the attitude of the commission, it may certainly be
held that they underestimated the significance of what they saw and
used the term "imagination" in a sense both vague and uncritical;
and yet the tenor of their conclusions was as wholesome as it was
justifiable. They were primarily concerned with the correctness of
the proposed explanation of the phenomena, and with the value of the
curative procedures; and on these points their verdict is logically
reached and forcibly stated. The psychic element in the guidance
of conduct as in the treatment of diseases they were prepared
to acknowledge, but not as an indorsement of animal magnetism.
"In searching for an imaginary cause for animal magnetism, the
actual power which man exercises over his fellow-beings without
the immediate and evident intervention of a physical agent, is
recognized." Their tests evidence their appreciation of the efficacy
of suggestion, a power which they admit "can be elaborated to an
art." While it may properly be urged that the report contributed to
the postponement of the scientific study of this class of phenomena,
its admirable logical qualities entitle its authors to the gratitude
and honorable remembrance of mankind. Indeed, in deference to
the excited state of public opinion of the time, they subjected
themselves and others to most painstaking tests, assuming the burden
of disproof, and treating Mesmer's arbitrary attitude with more
than scientific fairness. Their verdict not only destroyed Mesmer's
pretensions, but held out a rational, though in our present lights an
inadequate, interpretation of the phenomena, then so sensationally
presented to an excited and distraction-loving public.


Before the commissioners had completed their examination, the
aspect of animal magnetism was, in the hands of a French nobleman,
undergoing an entire change. The Marquis A. M. J. Chastenet de
Puységur, born in 1752, came of a distinguished family, and himself
took an important part in the Revolution; his death was the result
of a romantic but imprudent act of devotion to the royalist cause,
on the occasion of the coronation of Charles X. in 1825. He was one
of Mesmer's select pupils, and himself a good subject at the baquet;
and likewise remained a firm supporter of the doctrines of animal
magnetism. He had constructed a baquet at his estate at Buzancy,
and was applying the "Mesmeric" practices among his dependents. It
happened on the fourth of May, 1784, that he had magnetized his
subject, Victor, in the usual way, when (to continue with his own
words) "what was my surprise to see at the end of a quarter of an
hour this man sleeping peaceably in my arms without convulsion or
pain.... He spoke and seemed occupied with his own thoughts.... I
perceived that these were affecting him unpleasantly, and I stopped
them and suggested pleasanter ones, which indeed was not difficult.
Soon I saw that he was happy, imagining that he had drawn a prize or
was dancing at a fête, etc.; these ideas I fostered, and thus forced
him to move about on his chair as if dancing to a melody, which I
made him repeat aloud, by humming it myself." Upon awakening, Victor
remembered nothing of what had happened. In this observation there
are clearly recognizable an altered mental condition, a sleep-like
unconscious state, loss of memory upon awakening, and suggestibility
of sensations, ideas, and movements,--all important characteristics
of a true hypnosis. Indeed, this may be considered as the first
clearly recorded and uncomplicated production of the condition which
made possible the study of hypnotism.

The phenomena thus presented might readily have been the
starting-point of a scientific investigation of this peculiar
state, had not a subsequent observation unfortunately directed the
experiments into a different channel. When Victor was again thrown
into this "magnetic crisis" or sleep,--as Puységur at first termed
it,--he began to speak, describing his ailments, directing what
should be done to effect his cure, and giving similar prescriptions,
when questioned in regard to the treatment of others. This strange
condition, which by its analogy to sleep-walking came to be termed
"artificial somnambulism," was destined to mark a turning-point in
the history of the topic. It was evident, almost from the outset,
that the baquet and the other paraphernalia, the crises, pain,
and contortions were rendered quite unnecessary. The patients had
become their own physicians, prescribing such simple remedies as
were familiar to them by use or hearsay, and predicting the time of
appearance and the nature of the symptoms, such as they had witnessed
about the baquet or in everyday life. Within two months of the first
observation, 62 cures had been effected under Puységur's direction,
300 patients were in attendance, and 10 somnambulists had been
discovered; before the close of the year (1784) Puységur published
a volume detailing his cures, his correspondence, and his theory of
animal magnetism.

From the point of view of modern hypnotism, Puységur's position is
a most important one, more important, indeed, than that of Mesmer.
His literary productions and his personal activity in the formation
of the Loges d'Harmonie (organizations devoted to the study of
animal magnetism) were the most influential factors in keeping alive
the study of these phenomena after Mesmer's downfall, and in their
revival after the long interruption of the Revolution. Puységur's
views were at first identical with those of Mesmer; he believed in
the magnetic fluid and the baquet and the crises; but his practices
gradually dispensed with all these manipulations and regarded
the action of the will upon the somnambules as the essential and
sufficient method of effecting a cure. His conceptions were extremely
fanciful, and the point of view of his later writings is considerably
at variance with that of his earlier compositions. "Some day," he
predicts, "after five or six thousand years of existence upon earth,
mankind will admit that there is a fluid, or rather a conserving
agent of their existence and their health, which they can utilize ...
and direct for the benefit of their fellow-men by the simple action
of their wills." This universal magnetism is regarded as acting
directly through the human will; "croyez et veuillez" is his motto.
The tree likewise acts upon the patients connected with it, through
the magnetic action imparted to it by the will of the magnetizer.
Puységur regarded what he termed the instinctive electro-magnetism
of man as analogous to the force by which the chick imparts movement
and life to the germ upon which she broods. It was, however, his
practical influence, and not that of his decidedly fantastic views,
which guided the progress of the antecedents of hypnotism. The
contributions of his successors, as of his predecessors, cannot
deprive him of the credit of discovery of the hypnotic condition and
of the first clear appreciation of its importance. But the progress
which Puységur's discovery had brought about was almost at once lost
by the extravagant claims which were soon made for the somnambules
in their prediction and direction of the course of disease. They
came to be regarded as possessed of supernormal powers by which they
could perceive the anatomical conditions of their patients; they
predicted the future, or rather they were impressed in advance with
a sensation of what was to happen--"_presentiment_" or "_optique
preliminaire_"; they traveled in spirit to distant times and places;
they were _en rapport_ with the magnetizer, hearing and obeying him
alone, and interpreting his unexpressed thoughts and wishes; their
remedies were declared infallible, and Puységur himself, after thirty
years of experience, records that he had met with no case of a
wrong prediction. The valuable discovery of an artificially induced
condition, recognizable by definite physiological and psychological
changes, was at once engulfed in a senseless search for the wonderful
and the pursuit of fantastic theories.

Next in importance to the discoveries of Puységur were those of
Dr. Pétetin, of Lyons. His general position is much the same as
that of Puységur; for "animal magnetism," he substituted an "animal
electricity," (such was the title of his posthumous volume, 1808);
and he claimed to have found that the intervention of poor electric
conductors opposed the appearance of certain of the phenomena of the
somnambulic state. In a work published in 1787, he described a new
condition characterized by a fixed rigidity of the limbs, to which
he gave the name (still applied to it) of "catalepsy," and which
continues to be one of the characteristic modifications artificially
produced by hypnotization. Dr. Pétetin describes how his subject,
when magnetized, became insensible to external stimuli, how her pulse
slackened, her muscles became fixed, and how she would maintain
any position in which she was placed with statue-like rigidity.
Dr. Pétetin was also the first to record the automatic repetition
by the subject of the movements of the operator; the recollection
when re-magnetized of what had happened in a previous somnambulic
condition, but had been forgotten in the normal interval; and he
also recorded the production of what is now known as a negative
hallucination. When he had suggested to his subject that whoever
would touch a certain candlestick would disappear from her sight,
the subject no longer saw the individual thus spirited away. But as
in the case of Puységur, so also in that of Pétetin, he became known
not for his most careful and significant observations, but for those
which administered to the love of the marvelous, and which were in
essence totally erroneous. Pétetin's contribution to the aggregate
of error in which this study was to be merged was the memorable
"transposition of the senses." The same subject who brought to his
notice the cataleptic condition led him into this extravagance. This
subject while magnetized began to sing vociferously; while engaged in
changing her position during her catalepsy, his chair slipped, and he
fell toward her, exclaiming, "Oh, how unfortunate that I cannot stop
this singing." "Oh, doctor," she replied, "do not worry, I won't
sing any more;" and she stopped at once. Presently the singing was
resumed, and no words of the doctor could stop it, until he spoke
to her in the attitude previously assumed by the accidental fall,
with his head near her stomach. In this position she heard him and
obeyed, but gave no heed to his commands when he shouted them into
her ear. And thus was originated the transposition of the senses;
for Pétetin at once concluded, in accordance with the remarkable
sensibilities attributed to somnambules, that his subject heard
through her stomach. By further experiments he became convinced
that tastes and odors could be similarly perceived, and that his
subject could read what was written on a card applied to her stomach.
He also credited the various other exalted and marvelous mental
faculties of his subjects, and added to the prevailing mystery and
supernatural tendency of the period. His historical influence was but
slight; he was regarded as a mesmerist, and was chiefly remembered
by his introduction of the transposition of the senses into the
traditional system of artificial somnambulism. It is interesting to
note that the detection of error in another's work does not protect
against a similar error in one's own; Puységur, while accepting with
implicit faith the extravagances of his own subjects, was able to
recognize that unconscious suggestion lay at the basis of Pétetin's
observations. If at first, he remarks, Pétetin had happened to
suppose that his cataleptics could speak only during the wane of the
moon in May, they would have been dumb for eleven and a half months.


The early decades of the present century witnessed a revival of
interest in animal magnetism. Those whom the Revolution had turned
away from their favorite studies returned to them; new societies were
organized; journals in the interest of the science were founded; it
was recognized by various governments and scientific associations;
the Berlin Academy in 1818 offered a prize of 3000 marks for the best
memoir on the subject; Mesmer was brought forth from his obscurity,
and many of the distinctive traits of his system were reintroduced
and amplified. The movement was no longer confined to France, but
spread all over Europe, and even reached America. Its most continuous
connection was, however, still with Paris, and mainly with the
learned societies to which Mesmer had appealed in vain.

In contrast to the dominant belief in the miraculous endowment of
"somnambulic" subjects, there were a few who presented the subjective
nature of the phenomena. The career of Faria, a priest of Portuguese
extraction, who resided long in India, is regarded by some as
occupying an important place in the history of hypnotism. The Abbé
Faria came to Paris in 1814 and gave public exhibitions, in which
he produced many of the typical hypnotic phenomena, and explained
them as dependent not at all on his own powers, but entirely upon
the susceptibility and the faith of his subjects. He rejected alike
any belief in a personal influence or in a magnetic or other fluid.
He simply asked his subjects to think determinedly of sleep, or to
look at the back of his hand; and then in an authoritative voice
he would call out "_dormez_," emphasizing the command by pressing
his hand on the subject's forehead. By such simple means he put to
sleep three or four of every five subjects, and that within a minute
or two. He demonstrated the production of forced movements, the
deprivation of control of simple movements, the false perceptions of
sense, etc., all as products of suggestion, and indeed anticipated
many of the typical phenomena of modern hypnotism. Faria's career was
prematurely curtailed by an unfortunate incident; an actor succeeded
in feigning sleep in one of his performances, and forthwith branded
him as an impostor. If we may credit certain accounts, his position
practically anticipated that of Braid; but, according to others,
while impressed with the value of verbal suggestion, he was not free
from the prevailing mysteries and dogmas of somnambulism. In 1819
Bertrand delivered a course of public lectures on animal magnetism,
notable for their appreciation of the rôle of suggestion in their
production. For example, he sent a magnetized letter to his patient
which, when applied to the body, produced the desired symptoms; but
a second letter, not magnetized, but supposed to be so, and a third
letter, written by a friend in imitation of Bertrand's handwriting,
were equally efficacious. These are, however, some of the exceptional
exponents of the doctrines, which in the main were concerned with the
miraculous element of somnambulism introduced by Puységur and his

It is to be noted that in the revival of hypnotism the scene of
operation was transferred from the baquet and _salle des crises_ to
the hospital; the subjects are no longer persons of fashion seeking
release from ennui, but patients of the poorer classes, suffering
mainly from one or other of the protean forms of nervous derangement.
Some very remarkable subjects were discovered at the Salpêtrière by
Georget and Rostan, and the former inserted a chapter on somnambulism
in his textbook of physiology. In 1820 Husson authorized magnetism at
the Hôtel Dieu; and within a brief time somnambules were to be found
at almost all the hospitals of Paris. The phenomena presented were
those introduced by Puységur; patients became somnambulic, prescribed
for themselves and others, perceived by an internal sense the details
of their own anatomy, foresaw the future, and developed a variety of
abnormal sensibilities. Baron Du Potet, who experimented extensively
at the Hôtel Dieu, was convinced that his subjects could perceive his
silent wish and obey his unexpressed command. In Germany appeared
eccentric systems of "Tellurism" and "Siderism," and the occult was
rampant. The mysterious and extreme phenomena were accentuated, and
the value and genuineness of the entire somnambulic condition were
made to rest upon the demonstrability of miracles. Here and there a
few of the simpler phenomena, such as insensibility to pain, were
produced, but in the main these were neglected.

Of this type were the observations that, through the zeal of Dr.
Foissac, the Academy of Medicine was called upon to consider in
1825. He offered to exhibit his subjects, claiming for them all
the supernormal powers above indicated--that, indeed, "they were
possessed of the genius that had inspired Hippocrates." The work
of this commission was not free from dissensions; and five years
elapsed before they were able to submit a report. The report was
extremely favorable to the magnetists, and urged that, while some
of the effects produced were too trivial to serve as evidence of a
new system, and while others could be explained as due to the action
of the imagination, "some results depend solely upon magnetism and
cannot be produced without it." The commission corroborated the
physiological and other effects that had been already recorded,--such
as quickening of respiration and circulation, the induction of
tremors and convulsive movements, insensibility to pain and to
ordinary stimuli, the rapport between subject and operator, the
continuity of memory in successive magnetic states; but the chief
stress was laid upon the more wonderful operations. Of these they
certified as genuine, reading with closed eyes, the prediction of
the course of disease, clairvoyance, and general mental exaltation.
They also testified to the value of the therapeutic effects, and
conclude that the "academy should recognize and encourage researches
into magnetism as an interesting branch of psychology and natural
history." The report was read, but met with such decided disapproval
that it was withheld from the public. Its fundamental error was the
supposition that the demonstration of so unaccountable a phenomenon
as reading without the use of the eyes was necessary to or could
establish the existence of animal magnetism; they also erred through
ignorance of the extreme rigidity of conditions necessary to exclude
the endless possibilities of deception, conscious and unconscious,
and of the remarkable subtlety and hyperæsthesia of hysterical and
hypnotic subjects.

The next scene upon the stage of the Academy of Medicine was enacted
in 1837. At this time, the painless extraction of a tooth from a
patient in a somnambulic condition aroused considerable attention,
especially as the operator, Dr. Oudet, was a member of the Academy.
Other painless surgical operations upon magnetized patients were
reported. At about this time, Dr. Berna directed the attention of
the Academy to his subjects, for whom he claimed such powers as
reading with closed eyes. To test these claims a commission of nine
was appointed, and reported promptly, July 17, 1837. This report was
negative in the extreme. It raised the objection that everything
was made to rest upon the testimony of these somnambulists; it
declared that even the proofs of insensibility were defective, and
flatly denied the existence of the condition of somnambulism. The
alleged interpretation of the will of the operator was referred to
unconscious suggestion; the attempt at reading with the eyes closed
and the recognition of objects applied to the occiput was either a
total failure, or depended for its small measure of success upon the
shrewd guesses of the subjects, whose honesty was regarded as not
above suspicion. "We are at a loss what to think of a somnambulist
who described the knave of clubs on a blank card, who transformed the
ticket of an academician into a gold watch with a white dial plate
inscribed with black figures, and who, if she had been pressed, would
perhaps have gone on to tell us the hour marked by this watch." The
commission of 1837, even more specifically than that of 1825, was
called upon to consider alleged marvels; and this circumstance should
be taken into account in applying to them, as may properly be done,
the same criticism as was directed against former commissions. They,
too, have mistaken the real issue, and their justifiable skepticism
regarding such facts as reading without the use of the eyes unduly
biased their judgment in regard to the simpler and readily verifiable

The next step was certainly a practicable one; Burdin, a member of
the Academy, offered a prize of three thousand francs to any one
who could read without the use of the eyes. The offer was open for
two years, and subsequently the time was extended. Considering the
large number who had claimed this power, few offered themselves
for examination; and these either clearly failed to meet the test
(being detected in the manipulation of the bandage, and the like),
or those who had the somnambulists in charge refused to conform to
the conditions required by the examiners; and so the prize was never
awarded. The Academy then voted, October 1, 1840, to refuse from that
time on to give any consideration to questions relating to animal


Soon after the study of animal magnetism was thus denied academic
recognition in France, it was in some measure divested of its
mystifying and confusing accretions, by the independent observations
of an English surgeon, James Braid. Braid's first experience with the
phenomena of animal magnetism was at the séance given by Charles
Lafontaine, a traveling mesmerist, at Manchester, on November 13,
1841. He came to this exhibition inclined to regard the phenomena
as due to deception, trickery, and illusion, and saw nothing to
disturb his belief. At a second attendance, he was impressed with
the fact that the "magnetized" subjects were unable to open their
eyes; this he attributed to a paralysis of the nervous centres by a
too prolonged or too intense sensory strain. Braid at once initiated
experiments at his home. He began by asking a friend to stare
fixedly at the neck of a bottle, held close to and a little above
his eyes; in a few minutes the subject's eyelids closed, his head
dropped, and he went to sleep; the same process was repeated upon
Mrs. Braid, with an equally successful result. These experiments were
soon extended, and Braid was successful in sending to sleep nearly
all who presented themselves. The regularity and simplicity of the
process, as well as the unmistakable evidences of an altered mental
condition, left no doubt of the genuineness of the induced sleep. "I
now stated that I considered the experiments fully proved my theory,
and expressed my entire conviction that the phenomena of mesmerism
were to be accounted for on the principle of a derangement of the
state of the cerebro-spinal centres, and of the circulatory, and
respiratory, and muscular systems, induced, as I have explained, by a
fixed stare, absolute repose of body, fixed attention, and suppressed
respiration concomitant with that fixity of attention. That the
whole depended upon the physical and psychical condition of the
patient, arising from the causes referred to, and not at all on the
volition, or passes of the operator, throwing out a magnetic fluid,
or exciting into activity some mystical universal fluid or medium.
I further added that having thus produced the primary phenomena, I
had no doubt that the others would follow as a matter of course,
time being allowed for their gradual and successive development."
The practical importance of the change of view thus inaugurated
was extreme; it combated the prevalent notion that to prove the
reality of the magnetized condition, it was necessary to perform
miracles; it recognized different degrees and stages of the induced
condition; it emphasized the dependence of the condition upon the
state of the nervous system, and supplied the physiologist with a
rational interest in the phenomena; it discarded the vain hypothesis
of an universal fluid; it simplified the methods of producing the
state, and showed its analogy to ordinary sleep; it proved that
the phenomena were independent of the will or any subtle power of
the operator, but depended essentially upon the compliance and
suggestibility of the subject.

The importance of Braid's position in the history of hypnotism is
not easily overrated; it depends largely upon the fact that he was
the first to recognize the physiological aspect of the phenomena and
to abandon completely any relation with the fantastic theories and
practices that grew up in the wake of animal magnetism. It cannot be
said that Braid's discoveries, however original with him, had not
been anticipated by others; indeed, it is clear that the Abbé Faria's
method of inducing the condition and the phenomena that he exhibited
were essentially the same as those to which Braid directed attention;
while Bertrand, and even Puységur and others, had recognized the
rôle of suggestibility and imagination in producing many of the
effects. But Braid, far more clearly than any one else, presented the
phenomena from a legitimate scientific view, correlated the various
phenomena with one another, and laid the foundations of a true
science of hypnotism. Without disparaging the labors of others in
this field, and without forgetting the unfortunate circumstances in
Braid's career which detracted from his influence, the title may be
justly claimed for him, of the founder of modern hypnotism, as he was
also the inventor of the term.

It would take us too far into the details of the hypnotic condition
to describe Braid's practices and experiments; attention will be
directed only to those points which have a bearing upon the further
history of the topic. At the outset, Braid recognized that he was
dealing with an altered nervous condition, in which were present
hyperæsthesia, or exalted sensibility of several of the senses,
together with a control over functions normally beyond the reach
of the will; that these powers could be used to neutralize pain,
as well as for curative suggestions in the treatment of disease;
and that the phenomena had a distinct relation to ordinary sleep;
this last relation led him at first to speak of the topic as
"Neurypnology,"--the title of his first book, published in 1843.
It is quite intelligible that the confused and misleading form in
which the phenomena were presented during Braid's time prevented him
from grasping at once or completely the true subjective nature of
the condition, in spite of the clearness with which he recognized
the marks of its genuineness. Thus, he regarded that a physical
influence had much to do with the result, and confessed that he was
entirely at a loss to understand why a breath of air upon the skin,
as by blowing upon it, should terminate the hypnotic condition; or
make a rigid limb flexible, or restore the sight of one eye, and
leave the other insensible; or change the condition from that of
general inactivity to one of extreme mobility and excitability.
Later, however, he recognized in all this, the action of suggestion
combined with the imaginative ingenuity of the subject. But his most
serious handicap was his connection with the doctrines of phrenology,
then occupying a very conspicuous position in the public eye. It
was brought into connection with mesmerism or hypnotism by the
performances of professional exhibitors, who claimed that pressure
upon different parts of the head of the magnetized subject induced
the display of the corresponding "faculties." It seems quite clear
that Braid was entirely misled by these curious experiments; and
in spite of the fact that he later abandoned all belief in their
reality, and explained them as due to suggestion and association;
and further that he presented some grounds for believing that his
former experiments were intended to disprove phrenology,--yet it
is perfectly clear why the medical profession and the intelligent
public should have discredited Braid's labors by reason of his
notorious connection with the doctrines of phrenology. Surely a
work which recorded such experiments as the following naturally
excited a feeling of distrust. Patients, on being "pressed over the
phrenologist's organ of time, always expressed a desire 'to write'--a
letter--to her mother or brother; over their organ of tune, 'to
sing'; between this and wit, 'to be judicious'; the boundary between
wit and causality, 'to be clever'; causality, 'to have knowledge';
in the centre of the forehead, to have 'a certain perception of
learning'; and so on." And again "I placed a cork endways over the
organ of veneration and bound it in that position by a bandage
passing under the chin. I now hypnotized the patient, and ... after
a minute and a half an altered expression of countenance took place,
and a movement of the arms and hands, which latter became clasped
as in adoration, and the patient now arose from the seat and knelt
down as if engaged in prayer. On moving the cork forward, active
benevolence was manifested, and, on being pushed back, veneration
again manifested itself." We are then assured that the subjects knew
nothing of phrenology, were perfectly honest, and that no indications
were given of the expected results. Braid frankly records his belief
in the possibility of calling out phrenological activities by
pressure on definite points of the cranium; and the only loophole
of explanation which he left open was the one to which he later
resorted, claiming that the manifestations may be due to "a system
of training during the sleep, so that they may come out subsequently
as acts of memory, when corresponding points are touched, with which
particular ideas have been associated through audible suggestion."
In brief, in this explanation, given in 1854, Braid demonstrated the
admitted possibility of arousing emotions in hypnotic subjects by
inducing the expressions with which those emotions were associated.
But in 1843 he wrote, "If I am to believe the evidence of my senses,
therefore, in anything, I cannot see how I can doubt the relation
which consists between certain points of the cranium and the mental
manifestations which are excited by acting on them during hypnotism.
I believe there are few physiological phenomena which can be more
clearly demonstrated, especially at such an early stage of their

Braid's later works did not attract the attention which they
deserved, and perhaps it is proper to base an estimate of his
insight into the phenomena of hypnotism upon his more mature
but less influential writings. In these, Braid recognized the
subjective nature of the phenomena as fully as they are recognized
by the extreme representatives of the "suggestionist" school of
to-day. Indeed, he spoke of the state as "Monoideism," to emphasize
the fact that, while in this condition, the subject's mind was
totally absorbed in one idea; and that this narrow concentration
of consciousness, this influence of the dominant idea, completely
controlled mental and physical action, and rendered the subject
insensible to all other stimuli. Braid acquired a profound knowledge
of the effects of suggestion, both directly, as verbal suggestion,
and the indirect suggestion of manner and expectation. He tells of
a physician in London who used "mesmerism" with his patients, and
who produced catalepsy of the hands and arms and other wonderful
effects by the application of magnets. Braid recognized that the
subject, though asleep, was in a condition in which she could hear
what was going on. He assured the physician (in the subject's
hearing) that he had a little instrument in his pocket, which though
not a magnet, would produce equally marked effects. Braid gave the
patient the little instrument, with the remark to the physician
that it would produce catalepsy in both hands and arms; and such
was the result. Next, Braid declared that now she would be unable
to hold it, which also was the case, the little instrument dropping
out of her hands whenever it was given to her. When the patient
was aroused, Braid next told the physician that when the little
instrument was suspended on the third finger of the right hand of
the patient, it would send her to sleep; to which the physician
responded, "It never will." But Braid insisted that it would;
and the event proved that he was correct. The little instrument,
so variously potent in combination with a proper suggestion, was
nothing more than his portmanteau key and ring. It illustrates the
reverse of Voltaire's saying, that incantations, together with a
sufficient amount of arsenic, will kill your neighbor's sheep. In
the same way Braid proved that the experiments which seemed to show
that certain persons were sensitive to metals were in reality due
to unconscious suggestion, and that when, unknown to the subjects,
wood was substituted for metals, the expected results ensued. The
peculiar effects described by Reichenbach's sensitives he naturally
referred to the same cause; as also the doctrine, then brought
forward, that susceptible individuals could perceive the effects of
drugs enclosed in sealed vials. All these alleged phenomena were
correctly referred to unconscious suggestion and to hyperæsthesia.
Homœopathic remedies, he argued, owed their efficiency to the same
action of the expectant imagination; for the effect could hardly be
ascribed to a quantity so minute that a patient would have to take
a dose every second of the day and night for 30,000 years to get a
single grain of the substance. He analyzed the possibilities of error
in the interpretation of clairvoyance; and showed that perfectly
natural and well-understood processes were sufficient to furnish an
intelligible mode of accounting for so much of the success as could
be verified. He recognized the dangers of hypnotism in inexperienced
hands; although he believed that the moral sensibility of the subject
was sufficiently retained in the hypnotic condition to prevent the
abuse of the state for criminal purposes. He appreciated its field of
applicability in the cure of disease, though he by no means regarded
it as a panacea, and also its special use in surgical operations.
In fine, Braid, in spite of certain shortcomings, which are
characteristic only of his earlier writings, stands out preëminently
as the first to appreciate at their true value the entire range of
the complex factors of the hypnotic condition; to distinguish the
genuine phenomena from those which owed their marvelous aspect to
unconscious suggestion; and to show the relation of the whole topic
to the recognized body of scientific knowledge.


In spite of these very great merits, Braid's influence was for a
considerable time a slight and uncertain one; this was probably
due not alone to the opposition which his methods and teachings
aroused in the medical profession, but far more to the natural
distrust of a topic which was exploited in the form of popular and
vulgar exhibitions. The main association of hypnotism was still
with the absurd notions of animal magnetism, and with attempts to
demonstrate marvels, such as clairvoyance and the sensitiveness to
magnets. It thus came about that, during the period subsequent to
Braid's discoveries, hypnotism presented a varied aspect. On the one
hand, unlimited skepticism and a determined repudiation of readily
verifiable observations; on the other, uncritical enthusiasm without
appreciation of science and its methods. But in addition to the
conservatism of the man of science, and the groundless pretensions
of the mesmerist, are found the contributions of a few discerning
students aiding, though in a sporadic and uncertain way, the progress
of the science. What had been repeatedly established was forgotten
and had to be reëstablished; observations made by those who in some
one direction had fallen into error were discredited, and had to be
verified anew. The progress was thus tortuous and ill-defined, but
none the less the essential and important phenomena were gaining
wider and more authoritative recognition. The use of hypnotism as
an anæsthetic was most influential in compelling the attention
of the medical profession; for the frequent reports of surgical
operations upon hypnotized patients by men of reputation could hardly
be dismissed as illusory. As early as 1821 Recamier had utilized
the magnetic insensibility for surgical purposes; in 1829 Clocquet
performed a severe operation upon a magnetized woman; in 1837 Oudet
extracted a tooth from a patient in this condition; from 1842 on a
number of English surgeons--Tupham, Ward, Elliotson, Purland--used
hypnotism for various surgical operations, and a Mesmeric Infirmary
for this purpose was successfully maintained. Many of the reports of
such operations were received with extreme skepticism. The celebrated
surgeon, Lisfranc, regarded Clocquet as a dupe; and Oudet met with
a similar reception. Most extensive and remarkable were the series
of operations performed in India upon natives by Dr. Esdaile, and
reported in 1846. The most shocking and dangerous pathological
growths were removed without pain and with the minimum of discomfort.
Dr. Esdaile is entitled to high rank in the account of this period,
because his work was done so largely in independence of others;
moreover, he developed a theory of the phenomena quite analogous to
that of Braid; and in days when anæsthetics were but little known
naturally grew enthusiastic over the value of the practices which he
had so successfully demonstrated.

A more detailed account of this period than is here possible would
consider the physiological contributions of such as Carpenter and
Bennett and Mayo, whose criticisms and explanations of the alleged
marvels and false theories of mesmerism stemmed but could not stay
the flow of extravagant practices and beliefs with which England was
then deluged; with the carefully detailed conclusions and experiments
of Azam, of Demarquay, and Girard-Teulon, of Durand de Gros (who
later assumed the name of Phillips, and through whom Braid's
work was introduced into France); and of several other and often
independent workers. There is one, however, whose position is worthy
of separate notice, and who in a peculiar way forms the transition
between the present status of hypnotism and that which prevailed a
half century ago. I refer to Dr. A. A. Liebault, who, until within
recent years, maintained at Nancy the hypnotic clinic founded by him
forty years ago. In 1866, he published a valuable and original work
describing his methods and practice. He put his subjects to sleep by
verbal command, and suggested to them the relief of their pains and
ailments, enforcing the suggestions with such prescriptions as were
likely to be effective. He thus adopted the method of "suggestion" as
the central point of the system, and may be regarded as the founder
of the "suggestionist" school, also known, though not in the main by
reason of his labors, as the school of Nancy. Living in retirement,
out of touch with the medical profession, presenting his results in a
form unattractive to the scientific mind, and encumbered by peculiar
personal views, his work attracted no attention; and it remained for
more influential investigators, particularly Charcot at Paris and
Bernheim at Nancy, to establish the recognized doctrines of modern


It will be instructive at this point to retrace our steps and
complete the survey of the antecedents of hypnotism by some account
of a series of contributions, which, while they may represent
the backward steps in the zigzag line of progress from obscure
speculations to science, are nevertheless important historical
factors in the continuity of the movement, and in the maintenance
of the interest in this branch of psychological study. The
fanciful doctrines, which Mesmer revived, originated in mediæval
mysticism and superstition; and at no time, from then till now,
have such extravagant systems and notions failed to attract an
all too extensive class of intellectual malcontents, to whom the
progress of knowledge seems absurdly slow and laborious. Before
the establishment of the scientific theory of the relation of body
and mind, the opportunity in this field for such speculations was
endless, and it is to the vast history of pseudo-science that an
account of these properly belongs. It is for the purpose of gaining
a proper understanding of the various conceptions which were and are
associated with hypnotism that an excursion into this barren area is
here made. The fantastic schemes of Mesmer, Puységur, and Pétetin,
and even of Braid, have already been noticed, and the seed sown by
them still bears undesirable fruit. To J. P. F. Deleuze (1785-1835),
author of influential works on mesmerism, may be accorded the
doubtful honor of ranking as leader in the movement which continued
the mystic and eccentric elements of animal magnetism. He accepted
the combined marvels of mesmerism and somnambulism. He directed his
efforts towards the elaboration of the paraphernalia of the baquet,
the wand and passes, and the inculcation of most detailed cautions
and regulations for the guidance of the operator. Every movement of
the hand, and eyes, and head assumed special significance. The poles
of the human frame must be considered, and no departure made from
the prescribed manipulation. The process of demagnetizing is thus

"When you wish to put an end to the sitting, take care to draw
toward the extremity of the hands and toward the extremity of the
feet, prolonging your passes beyond these extremities and shaking
your finger each time. Finally, make several passes transversely
before the face, and also before the breast, at the distance of
three or four inches; these passes are made by presenting the two
hands together, and briskly drawing them from each other, as if
to carry off the superabundance of fluid with which the patient
may be charged. You see that it is essential to magnetize, always
descending from the head to the extremities, and never mounting
from the extremities to the head." The magnetism is imparted to
inanimate objects, and "one may magnetize a pitcher of water in two
or three minutes, a glass of water in one minute. It is unnecessary
to repeat here that processes pointed out for magnetizing water,
like everything else, would be absolutely useless, if they were not
employed with attention and with a determinate will." "The magnetizer
who uses a wand ought to have one of his own, and not lend it to any
person, lest it should be charged with different fluids--a precaution
more important than it is commonly thought to be." It is this
phase of the subject that found its way into Germany, and was most
typically embodied in the writings of Wolfart, Kieser, and Ennemoser.
For such mystics nothing seemed too absurd to find credence, nor too
profound to find an explanation in animal magnetism.

It was through Deleuze's influence, also, that mesmerism was
transplanted to America. As early as 1837, Charles Poyen lectured and
wrote on animal magnetism in New England; he exhibited the usual
phenomena, made the usual claims for supernatural faculties, and gave
the usual fanciful expositions. It was, however, through Dods and
Grimes, in 1850, that mesmerism became prominent in America, under
the absurd name of "electro-biology." The popular interest which
they aroused may be inferred from the fact that they were invited to
exhibit before Congress, the signatures of Clay and Webster appearing
in the letter of invitation. The absurdity of their writings is
sufficiently evident in the following extracts: "Let two persons
of equal brain, both in size and fluid, sit down. Let one of these
individuals remain perfectly passive, and let the other exercise
his mental and physical energies according to the true principles
of mesmerizing, and he will displace some of the nervo-vital fluid
from the passive brain and deposit it in his own instead. The next
day let them sit another hour, and so on day after day, until the
acting brain shall have displaced the major part of the nervo-vital
fluid from the passive brain and filled up that space with its own
nervous force, and the person will yield to the magnetic power
and serenely slumber in its inexpressible quietude." "Your brain
being magnetically subdued is worth hundreds of dollars to you. You
are then ready for the day of distress." An ignorant young man is
magnetized and forthwith converses with a "mental activity which put
to blush men of superior education and intellectual endowments."
An eminent lawyer is astonished at his learning and his quotations
from legal authorities. He speaks Greek, Latin, French, Polish,
all perfectly, and without accent; though when awake he knows no
language but English. Grimes determined the function of parts of
the brain from the answers of his somnambulist, and thus discovered
that the corpus callosum is designed to equalize the flow of the
nervous fluid. From the same source he received the assurance of the
correctness of his phrenological views. "I then asked her concerning
the location and uses of several new phreno-organs, which I supposed
that I had discovered, and to my surprise she answered me without the
least hesitation, and confirmed all my previous opinions, not even
excepting those opinions which I had never mentioned to any one, and
which she could only have known by clairvoyance."

"Electro-biology" made its way into England, and there found a
place among the endless forms of absurdity and pseudo-science then
prevalent. A few illustrations are powerless to give any adequate
notion of the extent and variety of the extravagant pretensions with
which animal magnetism was saturated in the years following Braid's
observations. The diabolic origin of mesmerism was discussed by
pulpit and press; a pamphlet, entitled "Dialogue between a Mesmerist
and a Christian," maintained that the two faiths were incompatible.
It was generally urged that mesmerism favored materialism, and in
1856 the Catholic Church issued an edict against the practice. The
skepticism of the medical profession found expression in extreme and
certainly unscientific statements. Dr. Buchanan (1851) of Glasgow,
holding that the alleged condition was the result of acting and
trickery, proposed the experiment of telling a hypnotized boy that
he could not move, and then applying the birch; this, he felt
confident, would satisfactorily refute the whole doctrine, and if,
in ninety-nine cases out of one hundred, the boy did not scamper
off, though his feet were mesmerized, he promised to recant "and to
believe in mesmerism ever after." There is unfortunately no record of
the acceptance of this test, which, in comparison with the hypnotic
anæsthesia of surgical operations then performed, would have been
easily met. From the following comment of a medical journal, in 1843,
one may infer that the controversy did not always recognize the
_politesses_ of discussion. "The mesmero-mania has nearly dwindled
in the metropolis into servile fatuity, but lingers in some of
the provinces with the _gobe-mouches_ and chaw-bacons, who, after
gulping down a pound of fat pork, would, with well-greased gullets,
swallow such a lot of mesmeric mummery as would choke an alligator or

The two writers to be presently cited are selected as illustrations
of the truth that the possession of intellectual attainments in
other directions does not insure against such gross errors as are
about to be noticed, and the second, moreover, serves as a type of
the compilations of the period, to which the reader may be referred
for further instances. The reputation of Miss Harriet Martineau
insured general attention to her "Letters on Mesmerism" (1845).
Miss Martineau was cured of a long-standing illness by magnetic
treatment, the operator being a noted mesmerist, Spencer T. Hall.
The magnetizing process gave rise to peculiar sensations which
were attributed to the action of the magnetic fluid. "My head has
often appeared to be drawn out, to change its form according to
the traction of my mesmerist, and an indescribable but exceedingly
agreeable sensation of transparency and lightness through a part or
whole of the frame has followed." Miss Martineau was thus made a
convert to mesmerism, and initiated experiments of her own, finding
in her maid, J., a somnambule of unusual powers. She maintained
her health by following the prescriptions given by the somnambule,
and the latter exhibited the many varieties of marvels with which
we have become familiar. The spontaneous or suggested utterances
of the somnambule upon matters relating to her exalted condition
were unquestioningly accepted. "Do the minds of the mesmerist and
the patient become one?" "Sometimes, but not often."--"Is it, then,
that they taste, feel, etc., the same things, at the same moment?"
"Yes."--"Will our minds become one?" "I think not."--"What are your
chief powers?" "I like to look up and see spiritual things; I can see
diseases, and I like to see visions."--"Can the mind hear otherwise
than by the ear?" "Not naturally; but a deaf person can hear the
mesmerist when in the sleep; not anybody else, however."--"How is it
that you can see without your eyes!" "Ah! that is a curious thing. I
have not found it out yet."

From the "Letters to a Candid Inquirer on Animal Magnetism," by
William Gregory, M.D., F.R.S.E., professor of chemistry in the
University of Edinburgh, selections appropriate to our present
purpose may be made almost at random. Some writing is placed in the
hands of the somnambule, and from this she pictures the writer, tells
of the lady's recent ailments, her surroundings, her travels, and
her condition; and when the lady herself is presented she immediately
recognizes her as the subject of her vision. A lost watch is
recovered and the thief detected by the same means; the whereabouts
of absent friends traveling in distant lands is determined by
placing a sample of their handwriting or a lock of their hair in
the somnambule's hands. The somnambule transports herself to past
times, and details the events of the life of Mary, Queen of Scots,
as she witnesses them. In her magnetic vision she follows, day by
day, the adventures of Sir John Franklin, who was then in the Arctic
regions. She frequently spoke of his occupations, and, when asked
the time of day, found it either by looking at a timepiece in the
cabin or by consulting Sir John's watch; and from the difference in
time indicated by the somnambule the longitude of Sir John Franklin's
location and the directions of his movements were calculated. "On a
Sunday afternoon in February, 1850, she said it was about 10 A.M.
there, and described the captain, Sir John, as reading prayers to
the crew, who knelt in a circle with their faces upward, looking
at him and appearing very sorrowful. She even named the chapter of
St. Mark's gospel which he read on that occasion." Although we are
naïvely told that, "as a general rule, we ought to verify the vision
before admitting it as an instance of genuine clairvoyance," yet in
this case the somnambule's assertions had been so uniformly verified
that it seemed unnecessary to question the correctness of her mental
Arctic explorations.

All the varieties of supernatural conditions--conscious lucidity,
conscious clairvoyance, sympathetic clairvoyance, sympathetic
retrovision, direct clairvoyance, mental traveling, introvision and
prevision, spontaneous retrovision--were formulated and added their
quota to the general mystery. The doctrine of cross-magnetism, or
the disturbing influence of different magnetizers, was developed,
and became a favorite mode of accounting for failures of all kinds.
Extravagant doctrines originating in other fields of pseudo-science
were incorporated into magnetism; the magic mirror or crystal was
one of these. The notion is doubtless very ancient,--compare the
shew-stone of Dr. Dee (1527-1608),--and was revived by Baron Du
Potet, who drew a black magic circle on the floor with a piece of
charcoal; this the subject approached, stared at it fixedly, and
seemed fascinated by it; grew excited, breathed hard, moved to and
fro, and then saw visions in the magic mirror. "It was no dream nor
nightmare; the apparitions were actually present. A series of events
were unrolled before him, represented by signs and figures which he
could understand and gloat over, sometimes joyful, sometimes gloomy,
just as these representations of the future passed before his eyes!
Very soon he was overcome by delirium, he wished to seize the image,
and darted a ferocious glance towards it; he finally started forward
to trample on the charcoal circle, the dust from it arose, and the
operator approached to put an end to a drama so full of emotion and

"Darlingism" was a term brought forward by one Darling, who used a
disc, said to be made of zinc and copper, to put his subjects to
sleep. Like electro-biology, it was merely a new name for the same
phenomena exhibited in connection with absurd theoretical notions.
The phrenological manifestations, so unfortunately countenanced by
Braid, continued to be exhibited by others in connection with the
hypnotic state. Clairvoyance continued to be regarded as one of the
most essential tests of the mesmeric condition, and took a prominent
part in public exhibitions. Somewhat later it was incorporated into
the equipment of spiritualism, and this movement probably exerted a
mystic influence upon mesmerism.

The investigations of Baron Reichenbach added a new class of
sensitives. Reichenbach announced the doctrine of an "odic" force
or "odyle," streaming forth from magnets and from the human frame,
and affecting the human system; certain sensitives could see these
emanations, and magnetized subjects at once become "odic" sensitives.
The doctrine that certain persons are sensitive to metals was an
ancient one. It reappeared in the myths that were woven about Casper
Hauser, the wild boy of Nuremberg (1828), who gave evidence of
his unusual origin by shuddering in the presence of a needle, and
evidencing intense agony in passing a hardware shop. Miss Martineau's
J. holds a piece of steel so tightly that no one can wrench it from
her, but touch the steel with gold and it falls from her hands
at once. The following citation will show how this movement was
utilized in mesmeric practices: "But to ascertain whether he (a
Major Buckley, a mesmerist) can obtain conscious clairvoyance, he
makes slow passes from his own forehead to his own chest. If this
produces a blue light in his face, strongly visible, the subject will
probably acquire conscious clairvoyance. If not, if the light be
pale, the subject must first be rendered clairvoyant in the sleep.
Taking those subjects who see a very deep blue light, he continues
to make passes over his own face, and also over the object, a box or
a nut, for example, in which written or printed words are inclosed,
which the clairvoyant is to read. Some subjects require only a pass
or two to be made clairvoyant, others require many. They describe
the blue light as rendering the box or nut transparent, so that they
can read what is inside. If too many passes be made by Major B., the
blue light becomes so deep that they cannot read, and some reverse
passes must be made to render the light less deep. Major Buckley has
thus produced conscious clairvoyance in eighty-nine persons, of whom
forty-four have been able to read mottoes contained in nut-shells,
purchased by other parties for the experiment."

It must not be supposed that these practices have entirely
disappeared. In a work published as late as 1869 we may read
such sentences as, "the clairvoyance of an idiot in a state of
somnambulism would inspire me with more confidence if I were sick
than the greatest geniuses which grace modern medicine;" and again,
"it never could be imagined with what tact, accuracy, and precision,
somnambulists account for anything that takes place in them. They are
literally present at the performance of all their organic functions;
they detect in them the slightest disorder, the minutest change.
Then of all this he forms a clear, exact, and mathematical idea.
He could tell, for instance, how many drops of blood there are in
his heart; he knows, almost to a gramme, how much it would require
to satisfy his appetite at the moment; how many drops of water
would be necessary to satisfy his thirst, and his valuations are
inconceivably exact. Time, space, forces of all kinds, the resistance
and weight of objects, his thoughts, or rather his instinct measures,
he calculates, appreciates all these matters by a single glance of
the eye." In the lectures and cheap compendiums telling "How to
Mesmerize," and giving "The Whole Art of Mesmerism," by which the
traveling mesmerists of yesterday, if not of to-day, extend their
fame, one may find these very same doctrines side by side with
garbled accounts of recent discoveries in hypnotism. But we have
already dwelt too long upon the aberrations of the human intellect,
in which the ludicrous and the solemn are so curiously combined.


The transition from the antecedent to the present status of
hypnotism was accomplished in the main by two factors; by the
precise determination, according to rigidly scientific methods,
of the physiological and psychological characteristics of the
hypnotic state, and by the advocacy of its claims and the further
development of its sphere of influence, on the part of professional
men of ability and acknowledged standing. The mischievous and
erratic associations of mesmerism, as also of hypnotism, were
difficult to outgrow. Unjustifiable skepticism and neglect were the
natural consequences of extravagance, perversion, and charlatanism.
Even the repeated and verifiable production by hypnotic means of
anæsthesia sufficient for serious surgical operations, was ignored;
partly, perhaps, because of the discovery of ether, which turned
the interest in anæsthetics into new channels. The legitimate and
progressive investigations of such as Braid, Liebault, Azam, Durand
de Gros, and others, were only fitfully and sparsely recognized. As
late as 1874 Dechambre, in his Medical Encyclopedia, declares that
all the phenomena rest upon self-deception and delusion, and that
the condition does not exist. But beginning with the third quarter
of the century the attitude rapidly changed. Richet (1875) published
an important paper in an authoritative physiological journal, in
which he again established by scientific methods the reality of the
hypnotic condition. In this he wrote, "It requires considerable
courage to speak aloud the word somnambulism. The stupid credulity
of the masses and the pretensions of certain charlatans have brought
the thing itself as well as the name into such disfavor that there
are but few men of science who do not look disparagingly upon any
communication on the subject." The advocacy of Charcot (1878) and
his demonstrations at the Salpêtrière finally succeeded in gaining
the day; and in 1882 the ban placed upon academic discussions of
this subject was lifted by the reception on the part of the Academy
of Science of a memoir by Charcot on hypnotism. The extensive series
of studies instigated by him at the Salpêtrière, and carried on
with marked ability and success by those who in some measure drew
their inspiration from the field of inquiry which he inaugurated;
the recognition which he secured for the presentation of studies
upon hypnotism before learned societies; the far-reaching influence
of his authority,--all contributed to the acceptance of hypnotism
as a scientific fact, and the inclusion of its study within the
circle of the sciences. It should be carefully noted, however,
that the period (which, to connect it with the name of but one
of its representatives, may be called the period of Charcot),
though marked by important extensions of our knowledge of hypnotic
phenomena, was in essence a period of reinstatement. All the
essential and fundamental discoveries had been made and forgotten,
and even had been rediscovered decades before; but not until this
period were they extensively and authoritatively acknowledged.
This reinstatement was naturally the result of coöperation of
many workers; while hypnotism still remained a favorite study of
French neurologists, other countries contributed extensively to its
advance. In Germany the main impetus to its study seems to have
been given by the striking demonstrations of hypnotic phenomena
by a Danish hypnotist, Hansen (1879 and 1880), which led to their
study by various physiologists. The earliest American contribution
of this period (and which was somewhat independent in origin) was
a study of trance-states by Dr. G. M. Beard, of New York, in 1881.
But accounts of contributors and contributions belong no longer
to the historical aspect which we are considering, but to modern
hypnotism. Suffice it to say that the literature of the subject of
the past two decades is almost alarmingly voluminous in its extent,
and most cosmopolitan in its composition; that cognate departments
of science--physiology, psychology, medicine--consider its bearings
upon their special problems; that its therapeutic application to
the cure of disease by the efficacy of the power of suggestion is
recognized extensively by general practitioners, by neurologists,
as well as in specific hypnotic clinics; that its utilization as a
special method of psychology has been productive of interesting and
valuable contributions; and that it illuminates many a dark recess
in the story of the historical and sociological development of
humanity. One phase of the matter, alone, seems destined to serve
as an historical turning-point; the year of the new epoch is best
marked by the appearance in 1886 of Dr. Bernheim's classic volume on
"Suggestion and its Therapeutical Applications"; and the key-note of
the newer doctrine lies in the term "suggestion." Charcot and his
followers had, in different degrees and ways, emphasized the physical
characteristics of the hypnosis; they held that in typical subjects
there were objectively distinct hypnotic states, characterized and
induced by physical manifestations. They recognized the importance
of suggestion, but in addition to it also recognized the existence
of objectively differentiated hypnotic phenomena. These and related
doctrines are commonly referred to as those of the "school of Paris."
In contrast with this is the "school of Nancy," of which Dr. Bernheim
is the acknowledged leader, and which may be characterized as the
"suggestionist" school. This school recognizes different degrees of
suggestibility, and an endless variety of resulting phenomena, but
regards suggestion, in its various forms, as furnishing a sufficient
and comprehensive clue to the entire range of observations. It
is compelled accordingly to regard the three distinctive states
recognized by Charcot as themselves the product of unconscious
suggestion and of a contagious _esprit de corps_ of the Salpêtrière
subjects. The school of Nancy to-day enjoys the most extensive
following, and may be said to represent the dominant trend of present
study. One may fairly say that the present psychological study in
this domain is the study of suggestion, one form, though only one
form, of which is hypnotic suggestion. With the complete realization
of the psychological significance of the hypnotic state, the fierce
and adventurous struggle for existence of hypnotism may be said to
terminate in its undisturbed adaptation to a scientific environment.


The history of the antecedents of hypnotism is rich in
suggestiveness. For the historian of the inductive sciences it
illustrates the influence of the circumstances accompanying
a discovery upon the status of the discovery itself; that
the acceptance of a discovery depends more upon its logical
concordance with current scientific conceptions, upon the manner
of its demonstration, than upon the intrinsic content of what is
demonstrated. It is as difficult in science as in real life to escape
the influences of unfortunate associates; the interesting state
which we now recognize as hypnosis was naturally discredited when it
consorted with animal magnetism and the marvels of somnambulism, but
was recognized when its credentials were expressed in intelligible
physiological and psychological terms. For the historian of human
error the story is equally significant. It illustrates again that the
mental attitude essentially influences truth and error alike; that
with all due allowance for ignorance, for faulty observation, for
defective organization of knowledge, error was due, more than to any
of these, to the lack of suitable concepts for the proper absorption
and appreciation of the phenomena in their true significance. For
lack of these there was misconception and oversight, and in their
stead prepossession by notions of a wholly irrelevant character.
Such notions were fostered by what we retrospectively recognize as
pseudo-science; such was the fictitious animal magnetism, an entity
never demonstrated, but supported only by a superficial analogical
plausibility. They were fostered also by the activity of the
marvel-loving impulse, which is unresponsive to the uniformities of
nature, and favors mystic fable, while overlooking sensible fact.
"Wer unmögliches geglaubt, könnt unmögliches verrichten." The
special form of belief, the name of the system, the nature of the
explanatory theory, seem almost accidental. Throughout all times, the
same intense craving to overthrow the limitations of the human mind
has been present, and has been satisfied by much the same beliefs and
theories. Mesmerism harks back to astrology; prophets and seers have
always existed; the mystery of the attractive force of the magnet
for long made magnetism a most popular explanation of any obscure
phenomena; the same performances that convinced the mesmerist of the
existence of the magnetic fluid are evidence to the electro-biologist
of the electro-vital force, of the "od" to the followers of
Reichenbach; and--more striking still--the outfit of the modern
spiritualistic medium, the trance, the clairvoyant discovery of one's
private affairs, the reading of messages in sealed envelopes, the
conversation with absent or departed friends, are all to be found in
the annals of somnambulism. Truly, history repeats itself; and the
endless forms of mysticism, error, and extravagance seem immortal;
they change in form and accommodate themselves to the advance in
knowledge and civilization, and parody the forms of statement and the
methods of science in an age which has learned to be impressed with
scientific demonstrations.

For the special student of hypnotism no lesson of the history of its
antecedents is more practically significant than its illumination
of the extent, variety, and subtlety of unconscious suggestion. If
Puységur's subjects prescribe for their own ills and see without
their eyes; if Pétetin's read what is placed on their stomachs; or
the interposition of poor electric-conductors prevent manifestations;
if one of the subjects examined by the commission of 1784 could not
be deprived of speech unless the magnetizing band passed below his
mouth; if one of the Salpêtrière subjects of 1829 could be cured only
by immersion in the river; if Deleuze's subjects respond differently
to the minute differences in manipulations, which he believed to be
essential; if the subjects whom Braid examined could prove the truth
of phrenology, and the mesmerist's subjects feel the magnetic fluid
streaming through their systems; if within recent times paralyses are
transferred from one arm to the other by the action of a magnet, or
Dr. Luys's subjects show the characteristic effects of a drug when
a sealed vial containing it is placed upon the subject's neck, or
respond to the puppets which he has manipulated,--surely it is as
obvious that some spontaneous caprice of the subject or unconscious
suggestions of the operator have originated these notions, and that
unconscious imitation has further contributed to their dissemination,
as it is obvious that all these in part mutually contradictory
phenomena cannot be true, objective facts. The significance of more
recent investigations in allied fields still turns upon the factor
which unconscious suggestion plays in their production. The advocates
of telepathy, whether occurring under hypnotic or more normal
conditions, feel confident that unconscious suggestion as well as all
other sources of error have been eliminated; the skeptical critics
point out overlooked and novel modes of unconscious suggestion, and
draw confidence from the history of the past, both of the unwarranted
flight to improbable hypothesis on the basis of an alleged absence
of a natural explanation, and of the solvent power which future
investigation may hold in store.

The story of the conquest of a realm of fable by a campaign of
enlightenment is always a tale of interest. The opening of a new
vista directs one's gaze outward over unexplored areas. It may be,
as our seventeenth-century chronicler tells us, that "we are all
Indians and Salvages in what we have not accustomed our senses," and
that, "what was Conjuring in the last age is Mathematiques in this";
but our more extensive acquaintance with the course of discovery
and the demonstration of truth has given us a more logical sense
of the probable and the improbable; and the evolution by which
conjuring becomes mathematics is more intimately understood. The
recent establishment of hypnotism in its scientific aspects furnishes
the proper perspective for the comprehension of its antecedents;
it gives confidence that its future development will incorporate
the spirit of present research, as it will avoid the aberrations of
the past; and it gives to the story of its vicissitudes a timely
pertinence as well as a psychological significance.



The origin of human endowment lies hidden in an obscure and
unrecorded past; the fact of development, of the gradual unfoldment
of capacity, stands out conspicuously throughout the historical
record of human achievement, and is equally recognizable in the
extensive remains of prehistoric humanity. The story of the mental
development of man is constructed from travelers' accounts of
primitive peoples, from the records of early civilizations, from the
sequences of thought and belief that are considered in the history
of culture, from the study of the intellectual growth of childhood,
from the observation of the less progressive elements of current
civilizations. The present essay attempts to portray the status
of one form of intellectual process, or of mental attitude, which
characterizes undeveloped stages of human thought, and has played
an important and variable part in the drama of mental evolution. I
propose to present the "Natural History of Analogy,"--meaning thereby
the treatment, according to the methods of natural science, of a type
of mental action, interesting at once as a psychological process, and
again from its practical results as a factor in the anthropological
history of the race.

An analogy is a type of reasoning, and as such is referred to the
logician for more precise definition. His briefest explanation of
the term may be stated as the inference of a further degree of
resemblance from an observed degree of resemblance; the argument
that because the Earth and Mars agree in the common possession of a
solid crust, an atmosphere, presence of water, changes of season,
the possibilities of rain and snow, and other observed qualities,
they will also agree in the further respect of being inhabited.
This may serve as an exemplar of the analogical argument in its
purest and most developed form; but in the survey of the varieties
and distribution of this natural product of rationality, it will
be necessary to include many forms of thought diverging more or
less from, though always retaining, a recognizable relation to this
type. The analogical inference, indeed, goes back to an inarticulate
form, in which it merges into a feeling rather than an argument, a
susceptibility to an influence supported by undefined plausibility,
rather than a conclusion from tangible evidence. But however lacking
in definiteness or formulation, however unconsciously realized
and barely expressible, the tendency or disposition to believe is
communicated to others and becomes an influential factor in the
ultimate fixation of belief and in the guidance of conduct. Logically
considered, analogy is always a weak argument; and becomes weaker,
as the range of observed resemblance is more and more limited, as
the resemblances belong to accidental, unessential traits, and
as the underlying basis of the inference is removed from direct
verification. Psychologically, its power to influence belief may be
very strong, and when this is not the case, there still may exist
a disposition to be influenced by analogical considerations, even
when these are successfully resisted or suppressed. The instinctive
proclivity towards the use of analogies, whether it be logical or
anti-logical in effect, forms an interesting psychological trait.
Logic counsels how we may think most profitably and correctly;
psychology describes how we actually do think or tend to think. The
logician is the gardener bent upon training certain selected flowers
according to an ideal standard, and eradicating all others as weeds;
while the psychologist is the botanist to whom all plants, weeds, and
flowers alike are worthy objects of study, and who, indeed, traces
significant resemblances between the despised weed and the choice

The natural history account of analogy will consider the status in
less advanced stages of human development, and the evolution of
this form of thought, which scientists to-day use only with the
greatest caution, and to which they at best assign but a limited
and corroborative value. It will appear that analogy is dominant
in primitive types of thought; that it has an important cultural
history; and has left an unmistakable impress upon many beliefs of
our civilization, marked as obsolete, perhaps, in the dictionary
of the cultured, but current still in the parlance of average and
untutored humanity.


The great law of apperception, teaching that we observe according
to our inherited capacities and our acquired experience, that we
in a very real sense create the world in which we live, explains
the difficulty of realizing modes of thought strikingly different
from our own, either as more primitive, or more complex, or as based
upon other perspectives of the social, intellectual, and ethical
rules that guide thought and conduct. To the supremely civilized
citizen of the nineteenth century, the mental life of one who has
hardly a firm hold on the first round of the ladder of civilization
is naturally somewhat incomprehensible. An illustration of the
conspicuous contrast, though doubtless amidst an inherent community,
of the thought-habits of untutored and of cultured man, may suggest
the direction and the nature of the evolutionary development that
separates, yet binds, the one and the other. Prominent among such
contrasts is the different standing assumed by the facts and
reasonings of science in primitive and in highly civilized life; and
an important part of this difference may be viewed as the shifting
of the position occupied by the argument by analogy. Deeper than the
language of words, and underlying their use and formation, is the
habit of comparing object with object, of tracing resemblances and
noting contrasts. It would seem that in the primitive use of this
process there is lacking the distinction between the resemblances
more strictly inherent in the objects and those originating in the
mode of viewing them; subject and object are still merged in a
vaguer realm of perception where myth and science, poetical fiction
and evident fact, are as yet undifferentiated and mingle without
let or hindrance. The savage frames his world by the realization
of simple fancies suggested by slight analogies, where the man
of culture examines the objective causes of phenomena under the
guidance of scientifically established principles and accurate logic.
Fortunately, however, for our power of realizing bygone mental
traits, these forms of belief still find currency as survivals, in
Mr. Tylor's apt words, "of the lower culture which they are of to
the higher culture which they are in." We thus can understand the
belief we no longer share; we can appreciate as suggestive myth or
far-fetched analogy what to our ancestors may have been a plausible
belief or a satisfactory explanation.

The prominence of analogy among undeveloped peoples supplies
unlimited illustrations of the rôle which it plays in primitive
circles, the essential influence which it exerts over thoughts
and customs in the early history of mankind. Consider first that
widespread class of customs and observances by which the savage
regards himself as influencing for good or ill the fate of friend or
foe. The Zulu chewing a bit of wood to soften the heart of the man
he wishes to buy oxen from, or of the woman he is wooing (Tylor);
the Illinois Indians making figures of those whose days they desire
to shorten, and stabbing these images to the heart, or by performing
incantations upon a stone trying to form a stone in the hearts of
their enemies (Dorman); the Peruvian sorcerer, making rag dolls and
piercing them with cactus-thorns, and hiding them about the beds
to cripple people; or the native of Borneo, making a wax figure of
his enemy in the belief that as the image melts, the enemy's body
will waste away (Tylor); the Zulu sorcerer who secures a portion
of a desired victim's dress and buries it secretly, so that, as it
rots away, his life may decay (Clodd); the confession recorded in
a seventeenth-century trial for witchcraft, that the accused had
"buried a glove of the said Lord Henry in the ground, so that as
the glove did rot and waste, the liver of the said lord might rot
and waste" (Brand); the New Britain sorcerer of to-day who burns a
castaway banana skin, so that he who carelessly left it unburied
may die a tormenting death (Clodd); bewitching by operating upon a
lock of hair or the parings of the finger-nails, and the consequent
widespread custom of religiously preventing such personal scraps from
falling into others' possession;--all these varied forms of primitive
witchcraft rest upon the notion that one kind of connection, one
link of resemblance, will bring with it others. The argument, if
explicitly stated, as can hardly be done without doing violence to
its instinctive force, may be put thus: this bit of wood or stone
or lock of hair or scrap of clothing resembles this man or woman in
that the one represents the other or that the one had a personal
connection with the other; therefore they will further resemble one
another in that whatever will make the one soft and yielding or the
other hard and unfeeling will have the same effect on the other, or
in that whatever is done to the one will happen to the other. Other
considerations combine with this underlying analogical factor to
impart cogency and plausibility to a belief or custom; but the type
of the logic, crooked though it be, is recognizable throughout.

Another significant group of primitive beliefs, involving a similarly
indirect argument by analogy, relates to the partaking of an animal
for the sake of thus absorbing its typical qualities. The Malays eat
tiger to acquire the sagacity as well as the cunning of that animal;
the Dyaks refuse to eat deer for fear of becoming faint-hearted; the
Caribs eschew pigs and tortoises for fear of having their eyes grow
small (Lubbock); even cannibalism may be indulged in, in the hopes
of absorbing the courage of a brave man, as in the case of Captain
Wells, who was killed near Chicago in 1812, and whose body was cut
up and distributed among the Indians, "so that all might have the
opportunity of getting a taste of the courageous soldier" (Clodd);
and in an ancient Mexican rite, called the eating of the god, there
occurs an elaborated and symbolical form of the same belief.

The use of omens, the interpretation of signs and coincidences, forms
another rich field for illustration of arguments by analogy. "Magical
arts," says Mr. Tylor, "in which the connection is that of mere
analogy or symbolism, are endlessly numerous throughout the course of
civilization. Their common theory may be readily made out from a few
typical cases, and thence applied confidently to the general mass.
The Australian will observe the track of an insect near a grave to
ascertain the direction where the sorcerer is to be found by whose
craft the man died.... The Khondi sets up the iron arrow of the war
god in a basket of rice, and judges from its standing upright that
war must be kept up also, or from its falling that the quarrel may
be let fall too; and when he tortures human victims sacrificed to
the earth goddess he rejoices to see them shed plentiful tears,
which betoken copious showers to fall upon his land." "In the burial
ceremonies of the natives of Alaska, if too many tears were shed
they said that the road of the dead would be muddy, but a few tears
just laid the dust" (Dorman). "The Zapotecs had a very curious
manner of selecting a manitou for a child at its birth. When a woman
was about to be delivered, the relatives assembled in the hut and
commenced to draw on the floor figures of different animals, rubbing
out each one as fast as completed. The one that remained at the time
of the birth was called the child's second self, and as soon as grown
up he procured the animal, and believed his health and existence
bound up with it" (Dorman). The taking of omens by the flight of
birds or the tracks of animals, by the sky, by the inspection of
sacrifices, by the trivial happenings of daily life, abound in savage
ceremonials, and in a fair proportion of cases carry with them the
rationale of their origin, that saves them from being mere caprice.
And in all those endless appeals to chance or lot for the detection
of crime, the unfoldment of the future, the prediction of the issue
of disease or of important tribal events, there is always some
underlying link of connection between the kind of omen or the nature
of its interpretation and the issue it signifies; and this connection
it is, however slight or fanciful, that maintains the belief in the
further bond of omen and issue.


That such connections may travel still farther along the path of
analogy without losing force, is well illustrated in the observances
regarding the use of names. The connection seems to pass from thing
to image, to name, much as picture-writing passes into word-writing.
The use of idols is abundant evidence of the extent of this
mental operation; what is done to or for the idol is analogically
transferred to the god, and the confusion may become so gross that
when the oracles of two gods disagree, their idols are knocked
against each other, and the one that breaks is declared in the wrong.
A drawing or other rough resemblance may do service for the thing,
especially in sacrifices of objects of value. By similar steps the
name becomes an essential portion of the object or person named,
and analogies formed through the name are applied to the thing.
Accordingly, a man may be bewitched through his name; hence there
arise the most elaborate and rigid observances prohibiting the use
of the name, which are grouped together in the complex code of the
Taboo,--that "dread tyrant of savage life, ... the Inquisition of the
lower culture, only more terrible and effective than the infamous
'Holy Office'" (Clodd). For uncomplicated illustrations of name
analogies, however, we must go to other customs than the Taboo. It
is related that in the British war with Nepaul, Goree Sah had sent
orders to "find out the name of the commander of the British army;
write it upon a piece of paper; take it some rice and turmeric;
say the great incantation three times; having said it, send for
some plum-tree wood, and therewith burn it;" thus was the life of
the commander to be destroyed. Similarly it was suspected that the
King of Dahomey refused to sign a letter, written in his name to
the President of the French Republic, for fear that M. Carnot might
bewitch him through it (cited by Clodd). "Barbaric man believes
that his name is a vital part of himself, and therefore that the
names of other men and of superhuman beings are also vital parts
of themselves. He further believes that to know the name is to put
its owner, whether he be deity, ghost, or mortal, in the power of
another, involving risk of harm or destruction to the named. He
therefore takes all kinds of precautions to conceal his name, often
from his friend, and always from his foe" (Clodd). In Borneo the
name of a sickly child is changed to deceive the evil spirits that
torment it. "When the life of a Kwapa Indian is supposed to be in
danger from illness, he at once seeks to get rid of his name, and
sends to another member of the tribe, who goes to the chief and buys
a new name, which is given to the patient. With the abandonment of
the old name it is believed that the sickness is thrown off. 'On the
reception of the new name the patient becomes related to the Kwapa
who purchased it. Any Kwapa can change or abandon his personal name
four times, but it is considered bad luck to attempt such a thing
for the fifth time'" (Clodd). The Mohawk chief can confer no higher
honor on his visitor than by giving him his name, with which goes
the right of regarding the chief's fame and deeds of valor as his
own. A Tahitian chief became so smitten with Stevenson's charms that
he assumed Stevenson's name; in exchange Stevenson took the name
of the chief, and in one of his letters signs himself, "Teritera,
which he was previously known as Robert Louis Stevenson." When totem
and tribal names are assumed to obtain the qualities of the animal
namesake, or the reverence due to the person is transferred to the
name, and when incantations and the utterances of mystic formulæ are
granted like efficacy as the manipulation of the things themselves,
we see the operation of the mental law under discussion; though
it is still more saliently illustrated in the more artificialized
practices of the Chinese physician, who, for lack of a desired drug,
will "write the prescription on a piece of paper and let the sick man
swallow its ashes or an infusion of the writing in water;" or of the
Moslem who expects relief from a decoction in which a verse of the
Koran written on paper has been washed (Tylor).

What is true of names is also regarded as true of other
representatives or embodiments of personality--the footprint, the
drawing, the image, the shadow. "Broken bottle ends or sharp stones
are put, in Russia and in Austria, in the footprints of a foe, for
the purpose of laming him (Lang); or a nail may be driven into a
horse's footprint to make him go lame" (Grimm). The Ojibways practice
magic "by drawing the figure of any person in sand or clay, or by
considering any object as the figure of a person, and then pricking
it with a sharp stick or other weapon; ... the person thus represented
will suffer likewise" (Dorman). The same idea appears in King James's
"Demonology," in which he speaks of "the devil teaching how to make
pictures of wax or clay, that by roasting thereof the persons that
they bear the name of may be continually melted or dried away by
sickness;" and even now Highland crofters perforate the image of
an enemy with pins. The same idea finds a tangible illustration in
the collection of objects in the Pitt Rivers Museum at Oxford (such
as a pig's heart from Devonshire, with pins stuck into it), which
were used for a like purpose. And Catlin's story of the accusation
brought against him by the Yukons, that he had made buffaloes scarce
by putting so many pictures of them in his book, may be paralleled
by the stories gathered from Scotland to Somerset, of "ill health or
ill luck which followed the camera, of folks who 'took bad and died'
after being 'a-tookt'" (Clodd). "The Basuto avoids the riverbank,
lest, as his shadow falls on the water, a crocodile may seize it
and harm the owner. In Wetar Island, near Celebes, the magicians
profess to make a man ill by spearing or stabbing his shadow; the
Arabs believe that if a hyæna treads on a shadow, it deprives the man
of the power of speech; and in modern Roumania the ancient custom
of burying a victim as sacrifice to the earth-spirit under any new
structure has a survival in the builder enticing some passer-by to
draw near, so that his shadow is thrown on the foundation-stone, the
belief being that he will die within the year" (Clodd).

To the underlying notions thus variously embodied may be applied
Mr. Clodd's characterization: they form "a part of that general
confusion between the objective and the subjective--in other words,
between names and things, or between symbols and realities--which
is a universal feature of barbaric modes of thought. This confusion
attributes the qualities of living things to things not living; it
lies at the root of all fetichism and idolatry; of all witchcraft,
Shamanism, and other instruments which are as keys to the invisible
kingdom of the dreaded." It is in such an atmosphere that the
philosophy of analogy rules with undisputed sway.

"Ideas are universal, incidents are local," says Mr. Clodd, in
speaking of the diffusion of folk-lore tales. The same is true of
thought tendencies. We may realize more intimately the analogical
potency of names by recalling their survivals from the solemn uses of
curses and excommunications, to the charms carried about the person
consisting of magic or cabalistic writing, to the playful or the
serious German usage of saying _unberufen_, and rapping three times
under the table if a word or thought "tempting Providence" has fallen
from the lips. Clearly, if we follow analogy as a guide, there is
much in a name.


We may next proceed to more general uses of the analogical
trait,--more general because the special analogical appropriateness
of thought or custom is no longer so apparent, but requires to
be viewed more as a special and, it may be, a somewhat arbitrary
application of a principle, itself supported or believed in on
analogical grounds. Metaphor and simile and symbolism may be based
upon the same types of resemblances that underlie analogy, but it is
desirable, so far as may be possible, to hold these distinct; yet
what is metaphor to us may still be analogy to others.

When we speak of a head of cabbage, the trunk of a tree, or the legs
of a table, we understand that we have applied these names on the
basis of resemblances to objects to which the names more strictly
belong, and there is no thought that the name carries with it any
further connection; but when the Chinese doctor administers the
heads, middle parts, and roots of plants, for the heads, bodies,
and legs of his patients respectively, he is clearly led to do so by
a vague sense of analogical fitness, by a feeling that the bodily
similarities are indicative of further connection of a quasi-causal
type. This kind of reasoning abounds in primitive ceremonials, in
which the appropriateness of the observances and of the elements of
the ritual depend upon resemblances or symbolical suggestiveness.
It is difficult to find instances of this trait in which a more or
less conscious symbolism is excluded, for we know how readily the
savage mind, in its somewhat more developed stages, uses this mode of
thought, as is evidenced by the ingenuity of their picture-writing,
gesture-language, and tribal systems. But apart from symbolical
procedures, in which the unreality of the underlying resemblances
is half acknowledged, we may note the application of such general
principles as that unusual phenomena have unusual significance,
and that to accomplish important objects drastic means and rare
substances must be employed; that operations and remedies will be
effective according to their divergence from the usual and the common
experience of mankind. The influence of this principle is traceable
in the bizarre fancies and grotesque performances of savages, as also
in the reverence shown to the belongings of the white man and the
curious uses to which they are put. In their ritual observances, as
well as in medical practice, the same principle is involved; a single
illustration will suffice to recall this well-known form of thought.
Dorman cites the fate of an Indian warrior brought to camp after a
most disastrous encounter with a grizzly bear. To repair his very
serious injuries "the doctor compounded a medicine that really ought
to have worked wonders. It was made by boiling together a collection
of miscellaneous weeds, a handful of chewing tobacco, the heads of
four rattlesnakes, and a select assortment of worn-out moccasins. The
decoction thus obtained was seasoned with a little crude petroleum
and a large quantity of red pepper, and the patient was directed
to take a pint of the mixture every half hour. He was a brave man,
conspicuous for his fortitude under suffering, but after taking his
first dose he turned over and died with the utmost expedition."

Another one of these general principles may have been suggested
by the failure of the ordinary omens; and thus the conclusion was
reached that the analogy proceeds not according to resemblance but
by contrast. For example, the Zulus, when dreaming "of a sick man
that he is dead, ... say, 'because we have dreamt of his death he
will not die.' But if they dream of a wedding dance it is the sign
of a funeral. So the Maoris hold that a kinsman dreamt of as dying
will recover, but to see him well is a sign of death. Both races thus
worked out, by the same crooked logic that guided our own ancestors,
the axiom that dreams go by contraries" (Tylor). It will be seen
in later portions of our exposition that these and other general
principles of an analogical type have lost none of their potency in
their more modern or more erudite phases.


The parallelism between the mental development of the individual
and of the race, though necessarily incomplete, is yet deeply
suggestive and significant. In a very true sense the unfoldment of
mental faculty from childhood to maturity reflects the allied course
of evolution from savagery to civilization; yet the reflection is
distorted and is traceable only in general outlines. Undeveloped
forms of thought and instinctive tendencies, of a related though by
no means of an identical character, should be traceable in each; and
among them the natural proclivity for dependence upon analogies.
That children are fond of reasoning by analogy there can be no
doubt; their confusion of fact with fancy, their lack of extensive
knowledge and the ability to refer effects to proper causes, their
great love for sound effects and play of words, the earnestness of
their play convictions--all these furnish a rich soil for the growth
of such habits of thought as we are now considering. On the other
hand, the influence of their adult companions, of their conventional
surroundings, of the growth of the make-believe sentiment by
which the laws of the real world are differentiated from those of
fairy-land, make it difficult to pronounce as an argument by analogy
what may really be a half-conscious play of fancy or jugglery
of words and ideas. There is, further, considerable difficulty
in collecting characteristic and unimpeachable illustrations of
arguments by analogy in children, owing to the general lack of
suitable collections of children's spontaneous and original mental
reactions. What fond parents are apt to observe and newspaper
paragraphers to record are sayings that amuse by a quaintness or
the assumption of a worldly wisdom beyond their years, while the
truly suggestive traits pass unrecorded for lack of psychologically
informed observers. There is thus a gap to be supplied by valuable
and suggestive study of analogy in childhood. However, not to pass by
the topic without illustration, I may cite the reply of the little
boy who, when asked his age, said he was nine when he stood on his
feet but six when he stood on his head, because an inverted 9 makes
a 6; he was certainly reasoning by a far-fetched analogy, however
little faith he may have had in the correctness of his reasoning. The
children who believed that butter comes from butterflies, and grass
from grasshoppers, beans from bees, and kittens from pussy-willows
(Stanley Hall), may have been simply misled by sound analogies;
but when Sir John Lubbock tells us of a little girl saying to her
brother, "If you eat so much goose you will be quite silly," and adds
that, "there are perhaps few children to whom the induction would not
seem perfectly legitimate," we appreciate that such arguments, so
closely paralleling the superstitions of savages, may be more real to
children than we suspect.


We may now enter in the search for reasonings by analogy into
a field of greatest interest to the student of the history of
culture; namely, the household traditions, the superstitions, and
the pseudo-scientific systems, that originated among our ancestors,
remote or immediate, and are still far from obsolete in all but the
upper strata of our civilization. This portion of the theme indeed
presents an _embarras de richesses_, and the illustrations to be
cited form but an insignificant share of those that could readily be
collected. Certainly more than one chapter of the history of human
error could be profitably devoted to those due to an unwarranted use
of the argument by analogy.

We may begin by taking a flying excursion into that body of
superstitions and folk-lore customs which no nation, however high or
low in the scale of civilization, is without. The widespread custom
of carrying baby upstairs before being taken to the lower floors of
the house, so that he may be successful in life and participate in
its ups rather than its downs, rests upon baby-logic indeed. The
belief that if baby keeps his fists tightly closed he will be stingy,
but if he holds an open palm he will be generous, likewise requires
no interpretation. It is forbidden, too, to measure a child, for
measuring it is measuring it for its coffin. To the German peasant,
if a dog howls looking downward it means death, if upward recovery
from sickness. "The Hessian lad thinks that he may escape the
conscription by carrying a baby-girl's cap in his pocket--a symbolic
way of repudiating manhood." "Fish," says the Cornishman, "should be
eaten from the tail to the head, to bring other fishes' heads towards
the shore, for eating them the wrong way turns them from the coast."
"It is still plain," says Mr. Tylor, from whom I have cited some of
these examples, "why the omen of the crow should be different on the
right or left hand, why a vulture should mean rapacity; a stork,
concord; a pelican, piety; an ass, labor; why the fierce, conquering
wolf should be a good omen, and the timid hare a bad one; why bees,
types of an obedient nation, should be lucky to a king, while flies
returning, however often they are driven off, should be signs of
importunity and impudence." And as parallels to these signs, in the
vegetable world, one may cite the amaranth as signifying immortality;
ivy, strength; cypress, woe; heliotrope, attachment; aspen, fear;
aloes, bitterness; while through more artificial associations the
laurel becomes the sign of renown; the rose, of love; the olive, of
peace; and the palm, of victory.

Less directly analogical are the customs of a semi-symbolic
character, depending upon a mysterious or potent sympathy. Thus, in
"Bavaria, flax will not thrive unless it is sown by women, and this
has to be done with strange ceremonies, including the scattering over
the field of the ashes of a fire made of wood consecrated during
matins. As high as the maids jump over the fires on the hilltops
on Midsummer Night, so high will the flax grow; but we find also
that as high as the bride springs from the table on her marriage
night, so high will the flax grow in that year." This is paralleled
by the custom, recorded by Mr. Frazer, current in the interior of
Sumatra. There "the rice is sown by women who, in sowing, let the
hair hang loose down their backs, in order that the rice may grow
luxuriantly and have long stalks." It is hardly necessary to continue
these illustrations, which will at once suggest others, with which
the wealth of superstitious lore overflows; nor do they require
elaborate interpretation. The resemblances involved may be fanciful
or symbolic, obvious or obscure, superficial or intrinsic, natural
or artificial, but the subtle and protean bases of analogy become
recognizable as soon as the mind is directed towards their detection.

It will be more profitable to limit the inquiry to a few groups of
beliefs, which have been more or less fully elaborated into systems.
Of these the interpretation of dreams offers a promising harvest of
analogies. This practice has a venerable history, the study of which
would constitute an interesting task for the patient student of the
by-paths of human culture. I shall draw only from the contemporaneous
survivals of this ancient lore, the dream-books purchasable in every
city and village.

My selections from this literature have been made with a view of
presenting the typical kinds of analogy through which modern dream
omens are believed in and through which this kind of reading finds
a sale. "To dream of using glue," an authority tells us, "foretells
imprisonment for yourself or friend;" and this because a prison
and glue are alike in that it is difficult to be released from the
hold of either. Similarly, because the pineapple has a rough and
forbidding appearance it becomes in dreams the omen of "crosses and
troubles." This seems hardly more than a play of words; indeed, we
have here touched one of the many points where metaphor and analogy
meet. For instance, we commonly speak of the ladder of success and
the ups and downs of fortune; the dream-book tells us that "to dream
of going up a ladder foretells the possession of wealth; coming down,
of poverty." The common phrase of "mud-slinging" is thus interpreted
by the dream-books, "to dream of dirty dirt or mud signifies that
some one will speak ill of you. If some one throws dirt on you it
foretells that you will be abused." To the same category belong the
dream-book maxims, that "to dream of being mounted on stilts denotes
that you are puffed up with vain pride;" "to dream that you gather
fruit from a very old tree is generally supposed to prognosticate
that you will succeed to the wealth of some ancient person; if you
dream of a clock and the hands stop it means death; if the hands keep
moving, recovery;" "to dream of a concert means a life of harmony
with one you love." So, too, various objects become significant of
their striking characteristics: the earthworm, from its habits of
underground and secret destruction, denotes "secret enemies that
endeavor to ruin and destroy us;" and all strongly redolent food,
such as onions, garlic, and leek, easily betraying the one who has
partaken of them, becomes indicative of the betrayal of secrets and
the like. Mr. Dyer cites some apt lines in which the logic is about
as meritorious as the verse:--

      "To dream of eating onions means
      Much strife in thy domestic scenes;
      Secrets found out or else betrayed,
      And many falsehoods made and said."

From Mr. Tylor's collection of dream omens of similar character
I cull the following: "to wash the hands denotes release from
anxieties;" "to have one's feet cut off prevents a journey;" "he who
dreams he has lost a tooth shall lose a friend;" "he that dreams that
a rib is taken out of his side shall ere long see the death of his
wife;" to dream of swimming and wading in the water is good, so that
the head be kept above water. A good share of the omens depend upon
contrasts and not upon resemblances: "to be married denotes some of
your kinsfolk are dead;" "to dream of death denotes happiness and
long life;" and so on. Others of these dream-book analogies depend
rather upon verbal resemblance, and still others involve resemblances
too subtle and peculiar to be readily explained. There is perhaps
nothing more underlying the dictum that "dreaming about Quakers means
that you will meet a friend soon" than the fact that the Quakers are
a "Society of Friends;" a little more elaborate punning underlies the
prediction that "to dream of a dairy showeth the dreamer to be of
a milksop nature;" and finally what a curious mixture of perverted
analogy is reflected in the notion that to dream of "a zebra
indicates a checkered life"!

The great parts that names and numbers play in superstitions of all
kinds is so familiar that a few instances will be sufficient. It is
well to bear in mind that these number and name predictions, in the
course of their venerable and eventful lives, have been systematized,
and the gaps in the system supplied by arbitrary associations. Thus
the modern fortune-telling books have an omen for each one of a
pack of cards, or a set of dominoes, in which we find, among what
seems little more than an arbitrary assignment of the ordinary
events of life, good and bad, pleasant and unpleasant, important
and trivial,--among the several cards or dominoes, here and there
some underlying basis of analogy; hearts relate to love affairs,
diamonds to wealth; kings and queens play important rôles; the jack
is about as often a lover as a knave; threes and sevens have special
significance; and double throws in dice, especially the two sixes,
have important consequences. So in folk-lore, operations, to be
effective, must be done just three times, or thrice three, or seven.
The seventh child of a seventh child has special powers, as we all
know. The twelfth hour that divides night from day is a momentous
instant, as is also the time of the cock's crow. "Against a warty
eruption the leeches advised the patient to take seven wafers and
write on each wafer, Maximianus, Malchus, Johannes, Martinianus,
Dionysius, Constantinus, Serafion; then a charm was to be sung to the
man, and a maiden was afterwards to hang it about his neck" (Black).
In a similar strain the dream-book informs us that if a number of
young women, not less than three nor more than seven, assemble on a
certain night, and if, as the hour strikes eleven, they each take
a sprig of myrtle and throw it, together with nine hairs from the
head, upon a live coal, and if they go to bed at exactly twelve
o'clock, they will dream of their future husbands as a reward of
their pains and their mathematical accuracy. Not a few of number
and name ceremonials are invested with their power by religious
associations; the ill luck of thirteen and of Friday is commonly
regarded as due to this source. In the northern English countries,
witches are said to dislike the bracken fern, because it bears on
its roots the initial C (indicating Christ), which may be seen on
cutting the root horizontally (Dyer). The clover, on account of its
trefoil form, suggesting trinity, is likewise good against witches
(Dyer). A like explanation seems applicable to the efficacy of the
cross and the cross-roads, both of which enter, in a variety of
ways, into folk-lore beliefs and customs. While numbers and names
and definite associations seldom form the whole basis of analogy by
which the belief becomes plausible, they very frequently enter to
emphasize and give point to practices suggested on other grounds.
The argument involved in the number analogy is extremely simple;
it is nothing more than because two phenomena have in common the
association with the same number, therefore they will be connected
in further respects. This slender line of connection affects the
minute code of superstitious action, and forms the thread whereon are
strung momentous omens, powerful recipes, dire predictions, and wise
precautions against various imaginary dangers.

The logic by which the treatments current in folk-medicine acquire
their efficacy is passing strange; at first acquaintance with
this wonderland we are apt to imagine ourselves in some weird
topsy-turvydom, where everything uncanny and incongruous is greedily
collected, and the most bizarre and trivial doings become endowed
with marvelous efficacy. Upon closer acquaintance we discover some
little order in the medley, and, in spite of much that remains
arbitrary and capricious, we begin to trace the analogies according
to which the various treatments are composed and the potions
concocted. The common connection of toads with warts, both as giving
and curing them, is due to nothing more than the warty appearance
of the toad's skin; similarly, in Gloucestershire, against ear-ache
a snail is pricked and the froth that exudes dropped into the
patient's ear (Black); and this by reason of the snail-like passages
in the ear. Fevers being connected with heat and blood, and both
these closely associated with red, red things become efficacious in
diseases characterized by fever. That this should be especially
in vogue against scarlet fever is no more than natural; and it is
related that when the son of Edward II. was sick of the small-pox,
the physician directed that the bed-furniture should be red (Black).
Other forms of such associations will be met with in the discussion
of the doctrines of signatures and sympathies.

Folk-medicine forms a particularly apt field for the application
of the two general forms of analogy indicated as prevalent among
savages: analogies by contrast and the assignment of unusual effects
to uncommon causes. If something is done with the right hand, doing
it with the left reverses the action; one set of directions applies
to men and contrary ones to women; saying a thing backwards is
particularly efficacious. The prescription against hiccough, that you
should "cross the front of the left shoe with the forefinger of the
right hand while you repeat the Lord's prayer backwards" (Black) may
serve to illustrate the one crooked type of argument, while for the
other we have only to recall the Shakespearean witches, with their--

      "Round about the cauldron go;
      In the poison'd entrails throw.
      Toad, that under coldest stone,
      Days and nights has thirty-one
      Swelter'd venom sleeping got,
      Boil thou first i' the charmed pot!
      Fillet of a fenny snake,
      In the cauldron boil and bake;
      Eye of newt and toe of frog,
      Wool of bat and tongue of dog,
      Adder's fork, and blind-worm's sting,
      Lizard's leg, and owlet's wing,
      For a charm of powerful trouble,
      Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.
      Scale of dragon, tooth of wolf;
      Witches' mummy; maw and gulf,
      Of the ravin'd salt-sea shark;
      Root of hemlock digg'd i' the dark;
      Liver of blaspheming Jew;
      Gall of goat, and slips of yew,
      Silvered in the moon's eclipse;
      Nose of Turk, and Tartar's lips;
      Finger of birth-strangled babe,
      Ditch deliver'd by a drab,--
      Make the gruel thick and slab;
      Add thereto a tiger's chaudron,
      For the ingredients of our cauldron.
      Cool it with the baboon's blood,
      Then the charm is firm and good."


From folk-medicine to false and absurd forms of remedial systems,
the transition is slight. For present purposes the most instructive
of such systematized beliefs is the doctrine of sympathy, of which
the most familiar survival is the phrase, "to take a hair of the dog
that bit you." The system appeared in various phases and at various
times. We find Paracelsus a believer in it in the form of a "weapon
salve," which is to be applied to the weapon that caused the wound
and thereby to heal the wound; weapon and wound having once been
related as cause and effect, this relation is supposed to insure
further connection. The system found wide circulation through the
efforts of Sir Kenelm Digby. While Sir Kenelm's practices involved
bad observation and ignorance of medicine, what gave the method its
plausibility and induced the faulty observation was an underlying
belief in the argument by analogy. His treatment may be gathered from
a story he tells of a Mr. Howell, whose hand was cut in an attempt
to stop a duel between friends. Sir Kenelm arrives on the scene and
asks for anything that had the blood upon it; he is given the garter
wherewith the hand was first bound; this he places in a basin of
water, when suddenly Mr. Howell, who is unaware of what is going on,
experiences a cooling effect and a relief from pain. When the garter
is placed before a great fire, Mr. Howell experiences an intense
burning in the wound. Still another form of this idea appears in the
"sympathetic alphabet," in which each of two friends cuts out a piece
of his skin and has it transferred to the other; on this grafted skin
an alphabet is tattooed, and when a letter is pricked on the skin of
the one friend, the other feels the pain at the corresponding point;
and thus intercourse is established. A still more curious form of
the doctrine appears in an out-of-the-way pamphlet; its title (a
German translation from the French) is "The Thought Telegraph: or the
instantaneous communication of thought at any distance, even from one
end of the world to the other, by means of a portable machine. The
most wonderful invention of our age." The true basis of the method,
we are told, depends upon a "sympathetic-galvano, magnetic, mineral,
animal, adamitic fluid;" the practice depends upon the alleged
discovery of a species of snails, placed in a sympathetic relation,
so that ever after their movements are in harmony. Accordingly each
operator takes one of the snails and places it upon the alphabet
chart; the snail crawls over the chart resting upon certain letters,
and the other snail, however far removed, will do just the same, and
thus the thought-telegraph will be established. Like Charles the
Second's famous fish, that would not add to the weight of a dish
of water in which it was placed, it lacks nothing but truth to be
a great invention. Practices of the same general nature are still
current; in the Netherlands, the knife that cut one is rubbed with
fat in the belief that as the fat dries the wound will heal. The
relation may become more remotely analogical and more arbitrary, as
when, to cure ague, as many notches are cut in a stick as there have
been fits; as the stick dries the ague is to disappear; ruptured
children are passed through a split tree, and thus a sympathy is
produced between child and tree, so that as the tree heals the child
will be cured. A like sympathy is supposed to exist between celestial
objects and human events; this is particularly applied to the moon,
the moon's growth and wane indicating the fortunate times for growth
and decay of earthly things. One must sow grain, cut the hair, and
perform sundry other operations with the increase of the moon, to
insure increase of growth. The tides are similarly significant, as
the ever-pathetic Barkis "going out with the tide" sufficiently

While in the doctrine of sympathy, the resemblance basal to the
analogy is one of relation,--such as the relation of cause and
effect, of owner and the object owned, of implement and the action
performed by its use,--in the doctrine of seals or signatures, the
resemblance is an outward, usually a visible one, of form, color,
or the possession of marked peculiarities. Underlying this doctrine
seems to be the belief that no object or event is without profound
significance for man's welfare. The key to this significance is to
be found in a resemblance obvious or remote, actual or ideal. Hence
the uses of things are suggested by their appearance. The euphrasia
or eyebright is useful in case of sore eyes on account of the bright
eye-like spot in its corolla; special virtues are ascribed to the
ginseng on account of the resemblance of its roots to a human shape.
The granulated roots of the white meadow saxifrage were regarded
as efficacious against calculous complaints. The Solomon's-seal
is so called on account of the marks in the cross-section of its
roots, and is used to seal wounds. Water-soldier, on account of its
sword-shaped leaves, was regarded as useful for gunshot wounds. The
red rose suggests its use in blood diseases; and yellow flowers were
used in jaundice and liver complaints. The walnut was clearly defined
for use in mental diseases: for its shape was that of the head,
the outer green covering being the pericranium, the hard shell the
skull, and the kernel the brain. Old ladies' thistle was for stitches
in the side, nettle tea for nettle-rash, hearts'-ease for heart
troubles. Plants whose parts resembled teeth were prescribed for
toothache, quaking grass against shakes, and so on with consistent
illogicality (Dyer). The resemblances here involved are obvious
enough; they are just such as underlie popular names of plants and
the metaphorical use of terms. They form another illustration of
how metaphor and analogy overlap; what we accept as a sufficient
suggestion for an appropriate name was by pseudo-science, by
folk-lore, or by superstition regarded as sufficiently significant to
support a cause-and-effect-like or a teleological relation. This,
furthermore, is a line of practice in which modern superstition and
savage belief stand on an equal footing; the prescriptions just
cited are matched by the operations of the Cherokee, who make "a
decoction of the cone-flower for weak eyes because of the fancied
resemblance of that plant to the strong-sighted eye of the deer"
(Clodd); who carry out the notion more elaborately when they "drink
an infusion of the tenacious burrs of the common beggars'-lice, an
American species of the genus Desmodium, to strengthen the memory,"
or to "insure a fine voice, boil crickets and drink the liquor"
(Clodd). The "Zulu medicine-man, who takes the bones of the oldest
bull or dog of the tribe, giving scrapings of these to the sick,
so that their lives may be prolonged to old age," in turn finds a
parallel in the seventeenth-century doctors, "who, with less logic,
but perchance unconscious humor, gave their patients pulverized mummy
to prolong their years" (cited by Clodd). Analogy in savagery, in
pseudo-science, and in undeveloped science, in superstition and in
survival, are of a nature all compact.

The transition from magic to science was made possible by, and
itself illustrates the supplanting of, loose and false reasoning by
close and logical thought; the pseudo-sciences represent weak and
erroneous inference even more than they embody defective observation
or mere ignorance. An over-dependence upon analogy characterizes some
portions of them all, and finds its fullest development in astrology,
as also in the various forms of alchemy and magic with which it is
historically connected. Although this body of thought engaged the
energies of many able and famous scholars, we can look upon it only
as a system of resemblances and coincidences, elaborate and complex
indeed, but requiring little more than a vivid imagination and a
somewhat keen sense for far-fetched analogies. "This investigation,"
says the astrologer in Rydberg's "Magic of the Middle Ages," "relies
on the resemblances of things, for this similarity is derived from
a correspondence, and causality is interwoven with correspondence.
Thus, for instance, we judge from the resemblance between the
splendor of gold and that of the sun, that gold has its celestial
correspondence in that luminary and sustains to it a causal
relation." Again, "the two-horned beetle bears a causal relation to
the moon, which at its increase and wane is also two-horned; and if
there were any doubt of this intimate relation between them, it must
vanish when we learn that the beetle hides its eggs in the earth for
the space of twenty-eight days, or just so long a time as is required
for the moon to pass through the zodiac, but digs them up again on
the twenty-ninth, when the moon is in conjunction with the sun."
(Agrippa, "De Occulta Philosophiæ," i. 24.)

It will readily be seen how limitless are the results obtainable
with such a system. Each planet becomes associated with a definite
part of the body, and an argument such as the following becomes
possible: "Since Capricornus, which presided over the knees in the
house of Saturn, and all crawling animals are connected with the
planet, the fat of snakes is an effective remedy against gout in the
knees, especially on Saturday, the day of Saturn" (Rydberg). Tables
of correspondences were freely devised showing the representatives
of the sun, moon, and five planets among the elements, the microcosm,
animals, plants, metals, and stones. Thus Mars was represented in
these spheres respectively, by fire, acid juices, beasts of prey,
burning, poisonous and stinging plants, iron or sulphuric metals,
diamond, jasper, amethyst, and magnet; the vein of analogy lying in
the fierce character of the god, whose name the planet bears. This
idea of correspondence dominates the queer collection of odds and
ends by which the old-time magician worked his charms. "Here," for
instance, he would say, "is a plate of lead on which is engraved
the symbol of a planet; and beside it a leaden flask containing
gall. If I now take a piece of fine onyx marked with the same planet
symbol and this dried cypress branch, and add to them the skin of a
snake and the feather of an owl, you will need but to look into one
of the tables given you to find that I have only collected various
things in the elementary world which bear a relation of mutual
activity to Saturn, and if rightly combined can attract both the
powers of that planet and of the angels with which it is connected"
(Rydberg). Mr. Tylor thus ably characterizes the analogies on which
such systems are built and the uses to which they are put. "But
most of his pseudo-science seems to rest on even weaker and more
arbitrary analogies, not of things but of names. Names of stars and
constellations, of signs denoting regions of the sky and periods
of days and years, no matter how arbitrarily given, are materials
which the astrologer can work upon and bring into ideal connection
with mundane events. That astronomers should have divided the sun's
course into imaginary signs of the zodiac, was enough to originate
astrological rules, that these celestial signs have an actual effect
on real earthly rams, bulls, crabs, lions, virgins. A child born
under the sign of the lion will be courageous, but one under the
crab will not go forward in life; one born under the waterman will
be drowned, and so forth.... Again, simply because astronomers chose
to distribute among the planets the names of certain deities, the
planets thereby acquired the characters of their divine namesakes.
Thus it was that the planet Venus became connected with love,
Mars with war, Jupiter (whose ♃ in altered shape still heads our
physicians' prescriptions) with power and joviality." The various
positions of the heavenly bodies at one's birth, interpreted by such
wild analogies, readily yield material for the prediction of future
careers, vague enough to defy close denial, and bold enough to claim
readily foreseeable consequences as striking verifications. Astrology
represents the climax of the argument by analogy, fully systematized
and calling into play many of the resources of modern learning. What
is so clearly represented in astrology appears to a less extent in
other pseudo-scientific systems; notably in palmistry and phrenology.
It captivates the well-informed as well as the ignorant, it appeals
to minds that are strong as well as those that are weak, and
emphasizes the pricelessness of our scientific inheritance and the
necessity of guarding it by the cultivation of sound logical habits
of thought.

It would be pleasant, but unwarranted, to think of these forms of
thought as obsolete; human nature is more deep-seated than learning.
"In every department of human thought," says Mr. Clodd, "evidence
of the non-persistence of primitive ideas is the exception rather
than the rule. Scratch the epiderm of the civilized man, and the
barbarian is found in the derm. In proof of which, there are more
people who believe in Zadkiel's 'Vox Stellarum' than in the
Nautical Almanac; and rare are the households where the 'Book of
Dreams' and 'Fortune-Teller' are not to be found in the kitchen.
The Singhalese caster of nativities has many representatives in
the West, and there may lie profit in the reminder of the shallow
depth to which knowledge of the orderly sequence of things has yet
penetrated in the many. Societies and serials for the promulgation of
astrology exist and flourish among us; Zadkiel boasts his circulation
of a hundred thousand, and vaunts the fulfillment of his Delphic
prophecies; while the late Astronomer Royal, Sir George Airy, was
pestered, as his successor probably is, with requests to work the
planets, accompanied by silver wherewith to cross his expert palm."
The old astrology finds its descendants in modern fatuous volumes on
Heliocentric Astrology, or Kabalistic Astrology, abounding in absurd
pseudo-philosophic jargon and science-aping demonstrations, but in
reality only the "vulgarest travesty of the old."


By way of conclusion it may be helpful to consider certain general
truths in the field of anthropology and mental evolution, upon
which the illustrations we have been considering have a bearing.
We have seen what a widely extended genus the analogical argument
compasses; and yet, if we were to include under this head certain
closely allied and yet distinguishable forms of thought, it would
be much wider still. I refer particularly to the use of metaphor
and symbolism, which, like the children's make-believe with their
dolls or fairies, is none the less on the boundary line between
the real and the fictitious. Myth equally readily passes from the
unconscious to the conscious stage, and much of what is plausibly
interpreted as an argument by analogy, seems equally well an
intentional use of symbolism and myth. That savages, at least in
all but the lower stages, appreciate the use of myth is beyond all
doubt. Primitive ceremonials, as also primitive explanations of the
changes of nature, are full of symbolisms, which involve the same
mental habit, whose products in the domain of analogy have been
portrayed. This mythological instinct, Mr. Tylor well says, "belongs
to that great doctrine of analogy from which we have gained so much
of our apprehension of the world around us. Distrusted as it now
is by severer science for its misleading results, analogy is to us
still a chief means of discovery and illustration, while in earlier
grades of education its influence was all but paramount. Analogies
which are but fancies to us were to men of past ages reality. They
could see the flame licking its yet undevoured prey with tongues of
fire, or the serpent gliding along the sword from hilt to point; they
could see a live creature gnawing within their bodies in the pangs
of hunger; they heard the voices of the hill-dwarfs answering in the
echo, and the chariot of the heaven god rattling in thunder over the
solid firmament. Men to whom these were living thoughts had no need
of the schoolmaster and his rules of composition, his injunctions
to use metaphor cautiously and to take care to make all similes

The principle that what was once the serious occupation of men
becomes in more advanced stages of culture the play of children, or
is reduced from seriousness to mere amusement, finds illustrations
in the mental as in the material world. The drum, once the serious
terrifying instrument of the savage warrior, and the rattle, once the
powerful emblem of the medicine man, have become the common toys of
children. The bow and arrow are used for skill and sport only. In a
similar way the formidable and trusted argument by analogy finds its
proper field in riddles and puns. When we put the question, "Why is
this object like the other?" we understand that some out-of-the-way
and accidental resemblance is asked for, some not very close analogy,
that provokes amusement but not belief; in many cases the resemblance
is in the name only and degenerates into a pun. In such exercises of
fancy we are employing the same faculties that our ancestors used in
arriving at the customs and beliefs that we have been considering.
The laws governing the progress of industrial arts, of mechanical
inventions and social institutions seem thus to find equally ready
application to the evolution of habits and customs in the mental

From another, and that also a comparative anthropological point of
view, the natural history of analogy illustrates, though imperfectly,
the evolutionary bond that unites the development of the race from
primitive culture to civilization, from infantile helplessness to
adult power, and again the dissolution of these processes in disease
or their atavistic retention in less progressive strata of society.
Significant, even though sporadic, parallelisms have been pointed
out in the use of analogy by savages and by children; and far more
completely can it be shown that superstitions and pseudo-sciences,
folk-lore traditions and popular beliefs show the survival of these
same analogical habits of mind, which may be viewed in part as
reversions to outgrown conditions of thought, in part as the cropping
out, in pathological form, of retarding tendencies which the course
of evolution may have repressed but not wholly destroyed. For there
is hardly a form of modern superstition, there is hardly a custom
sanctioned by the unwritten tradition of the people, but what can be
closely duplicated among the customs and beliefs of the untutored

All this impresses us with the enduring qualities of man's barbaric
past, the permanent though latent effect of his complete adaptation
for thousands of years to a low intellectual environment. "The
intrusion of the scientific method," Mr. Clodd aptly comments, "in
its application to man's whole nature, disturbed that equilibrium.
But this, as yet, only within the narrow area of the highest
culture." The earlier and more fundamental psychological factor
of humanity is feeling and not thought, or more accurately an
incipient rationality, thoroughly suffused with emotional motives;
and primitive analogies proceed by a feeling of analogical fitness,
and not by an intellectual justification. "The exercise of feeling
has been active from the beginning of his history, while thought,
speaking comparatively, has but recently had free play.... Man
wondered long chiliads before he reasoned, because feeling travels
along the line of least resistance, while thought, or the challenge
by inquiry, with its assumption that there may be two sides to a
question, must pursue a path obstructed by the dominance of taboo and
custom, by the force of imitation, and by the strength of prejudice,
passion, and fear."

The survey of the argument by analogy brings home the conviction
that there are forms of mental action, psychological tendencies
or thought-habits, characteristic of undeveloped stages of human
mentality; that these appear in versatile and instructive variety;
and, more important still, that they furnish glimpses of the workings
of a great progressive law, visible in the shifting of importance
attached to the argument by analogy, and in its gradual subordination
to, and ultimate retirement in favor of the sturdy principles of
inductive logic. We are thus led to appreciate the means by which
error is converted into truth, the slow and painful steps by which
the logic of the sciences is unfolded and mastered. When Lord
Chesterfield relates that the people expected a fatal issue of the
king's illness, because the oldest lion in the tower, of about the
same age as the king, had just died, he cannot help commenting
upon the wildness and caprice of the human mind; but Mr. Tylor
more judiciously remarks, "Indeed the thought was neither wild nor
capricious; it was simply such an argument by analogy as the educated
world has at length painfully learned to be worthless, but which
it is not too much to declare would to this day carry considerable
weight to the minds of four-fifths of the human race." Analogy
has doubtless lost the prestige of olden time; but the remains of
effete and misleading forms of thought, upheld by a feeling of their
analogical plausibility, continue to survive, and may at any time,
when cloaked in a modern garb, regain their former efficiency,
and feed the contagion of some new fad or pseudo-science; while
superstition, like poverty, we shall always have with us, so long
as there are social and intellectual distinctions amongst men. In
the light of the natural history survey of analogy, these phenomena
appear in their true significance, testifying at once to the inherent
progress, despite reversions, and to the underlying unity of
constitution and purpose, through which these phenomena acquire their
deeper and more human interest.


      _Hamlet._ My father,--methinks, I see my father.

      _Horatio._ O, where, my lord?

      _Hamlet._ In my mind's eye, Horatio.


It is a commonplace taught from nursery to university that we see
with our eyes, hear with our ears, and feel with our fingers. This is
the truth, but not the whole truth. Indispensable as are the sense
organs in gaining an acquaintance with the world in which we live,
yet they alone do not determine how extensive or how accurate that
acquaintance shall be. There is a mind behind the eye and the ear and
the finger-tips which guides them in gathering information, and gives
value and order to the exercise of the senses. This is particularly
true of vision,--the most intellectual of all the senses, the one in
which mere acuteness of the sense organ counts least and the training
in observation counts most. The eagle's eye sees farther, but our
eyes tell us vastly more of what is seen.

The eye may be compared to a photographic camera, with its eyelid
cap, its iris shutter, its lens, and its sensitive plate,--the
retina; when properly adjusted for distance and light, the image
is formed on the retina as on the glass plate, and the picture is
taken. So far the comparison is helpful; but while the camera takes a
picture whenever and wherever the plate happens to be exposed, the
complete act of seeing requires some coöperation on the part of the
mind. The retina may be exposed a thousand times and take but few
pictures; or perhaps it is better to say that the pictures may be
taken, but remain undeveloped and evanescent. The pictures that are
developed are stacked up, like the negatives in the photographer's
shop, in the pigeon-holes of our mental storerooms,--some faded and
blurred, some poorly arranged or mislaid, some often referred to and
fresh prints made therefrom, and some quite neglected.

In order to see, it is at once necessary that the retina be suitably
exposed toward the object to be seen, and that the mind be favorably
disposed to the assimilation of the impression. True seeing,
observing, is a double process, partly objective or outward--the
thing seen and the retina,--and partly subjective or inward--the
picture mysteriously transferred to the mind's representative,
the brain, and there received and affiliated with other images.
Illustrations of such seeing with the "mind's eye" are not far to
seek. Wherever the beauties and conformations of natural scenery
invite the eye of man, does he discover familiar forms and faces;
the forces of nature have rough-hewn the rocks, but the human eye
detects and often creates the resemblances. The stranger to whom such
curiosities of form are first pointed out often finds it difficult to
discover the resemblance, but once seen, the face or form obtrudes
itself in every view, and seems the most conspicuous feature in
the outlook. The flickering fire furnishes a fine background for
the activity of the mind's eye, and against this it projects the
forms and fancies which the leaping flames and the burning embers
from time to time suggest. Not all see these fire-pictures readily,
for our mental eyes differ more from one another than the physical
ones, and perhaps no two persons see the same picture in quite the
same way. It is not quite true, however, as many have held, that in
waking hours we all have a world in common, but in dreams each has
a world of his own; for our waking worlds are made different by the
differences in what engages our interest and our attention. It is
true that our eyes when open are opened very largely to the same
views, but by no one observer are all these views, though visible,
really seen.

This characteristic of vision often serves as a source of amusement.
The puzzle picture with its tantalizing face, or animal, or what
not, hidden in the trees, or fantastically constructed out of
heterogeneous elements that make up the composition, is to many quite
irresistible. We turn it about in all directions, wondering where
the hidden form can be, scanning every detail of the picture, until
suddenly a chance glimpse reveals it, plainly staring us in the face.
When several persons are engaged in this occupation, it is amusing to
observe how blind each is to what the others see; their physical eyes
see alike, but their mental eyes reflect their own individualities.

Of the many thousands of persons who handle our silver dollar,
but few happen to observe the lion's head which lies concealed in
the representation of the familiar head of Liberty; frequently
even a careful examination fails to detect this hidden emblem of
British rule; but, as before, when once found, it is quite obvious
(Fig. 1).[10] For similar reasons it is a great aid in looking
for an object to know what to look for; to be readily found, the
object, though lost to sight, should be to memory clear. Searching
is a mental process similar to the matching of a piece of fabric
in texture or color, when one has forgotten the sample and must
rely upon the remembrance of its appearance. If the recollection
is clear and distinct, recognition takes place when the judgment
decides that what the physical eye sees corresponds to the image
in the mind's eye; with an indistinct mental image the recognition
becomes doubtful or faulty. The novice in the use of the microscope
experiences considerable difficulty in observing the appearance which
his instructor sees and describes, and this because his conception
of the object to be seen is lacking in precision. Hence his training
in the use of the microscope is distinctly aided by consulting the
illustrations in the textbook, for they enable his mental eye to
realize the pictures which it should entertain. He may be altogether
too much influenced by the pictures thus suggested to his mental
vision, and draw what is really not under his microscope at all; much
as the young arithmetician will manage to obtain the answer which the
book requires even at the cost of a resort to very unmathematical
processes. For training in correct and accurate vision it is
necessary to acquire an alert mental eye, that observes all that is
objectively visible, but does not permit the subjective to add to or
modify what is really present.


    [Illustration: FIG. 1.--In order to see the lion's
    head, look at the above cut upside down, and the
    head will be discovered facing the left, as above
    outlined. It is clearer on the coin itself than in this

    [Illustration: FIG. 2.--These letters should not be
    seen at all until they have been observed at a distance
    of eight to twelve feet. An interesting method of
    testing the activity of the mind's eye with these
    letters is described in the text.]

    [Illustration: FIG. 2_a_.]

    [Illustration: FIG. 2_b_.]

    [Illustration: FIG. 3.--For description, see text, page

The importance of the mind's eye in ordinary vision is also well
illustrated in cases in which we see or seem to see what is not
really present, but what for one cause or another it is natural to
suppose is present. A very familiar instance of this process is the
constant overlooking of misprints--false letters, transposed letters,
and missing letters--unless these happen to be particularly striking.
We see only the general physiognomy of the word, and the detailed
features are supplied from within; in this case it is the expected
that happens. In a series of experiments by Professor Münsterberg a
word was briefly shown, while just before a certain idea or train of
thought was suggested. Under these circumstances the word shown was
often misread in accordance with the suggested idea; if the idea of
future is suggested, part may be read as past; if vegetable is the
suggested line of thought, fright may be read as fruit, and so on.
Reading is thus done largely by the mental eye; and entire words,
obviously suggested by the context, are sometimes read in, when they
have been accidentally omitted. This is more apt to occur with the
irregular characters used in manuscript than in the more distinct
forms of the printed alphabet, and is particularly frequent in
reading over what one has himself written. In reading proof, however,
we are eager to detect misprints, and this change in attitude helps
to make them visible. It is very difficult to illustrate this process
intentionally, because the knowledge that one's powers of observation
are about to be tested places one on one's guard, and thus suppresses
the natural activity of the mind's eye and draws unusual attention
to objective details. Let the reader at this point hold the page
at some distance off--say, eight or twelve feet--and draw an exact
reproduction of the letters shown in Fig. 2. He should not look at
Fig. 2 at close range nor read further in the text until this has
been done; and _perhaps_ he may find that he has introduced strokes
which were not present in the original. If this is not the case, let
him try the test upon those who are ignorant of its nature, and he
will find that most persons will supply light lines to complete the
contours of the letters, which in the original are suggested but not
really present; the original outline, Fig. 2_a_, becomes something
like Fig. 2_b_, and so on for the rest of the letters. The physical
eye sees the former, but the mental eye sees the latter. I tried
this experiment with a class of some thirty University students of
Psychology, and, although they were disposed to be quite critical
and suspected some kind of an illusion, only three or four drew
the letters correctly; all the rest filled in the imaginary light
contours; some even drew them as heavily as the real strokes. I
followed this by an experiment of a similar character. I placed
upon a table a figure (Fig. 3) made of light cardboard, fastened to
blocks of wood at the base, so that the pieces would easily stand
upright. The middle piece, which is rectangular and higher than the
rest, was placed a little in front of the rest of the figure. The
students were asked to describe precisely what they saw; and with
one exception they all described, in different words, a semicircular
piece of cardboard with a rectangular piece in front of it. In
reality there was no half-circle of cardboard, but only portions
of two quarter-circles with the portion back of the middle piece
omitted. The students, of course, were well aware that their physical
eyes could not see what was behind the middle cardboard, but they
inferred, quite naturally, that the two side pieces were parts of one
continuous semicircle. This they saw, so far as they saw it at all,
with their mind's eye.


    [Illustration: FIG. 4.--The black and white portions
    of this design are precisely alike; but the effect of
    looking at the figure as a pattern in black upon a
    white background, or as a pattern in white upon a black
    background is quite different, although the difference
    is not easily described.]

There is a further interesting class of illustrations in which a
single outward impression changes its character according as it is
viewed as representing one thing or another. In a general way we see
the same thing all the time, and the image on the retina does not
change. But as we shift the attention from one portion of the view
to another, or as we view it with a different mental conception of
what the figure represents, it assumes a different aspect, and to our
mental eye becomes quite a different thing. A slight but interesting
change takes place if we view Fig. 4 first with the conception that
the black is the pattern to be seen and the white the background, and
again try to see the white as the pattern against a black background.
I give a further illustration of such a change in Fig. 5. In our
first and natural view of this we focus the attention upon the black
lines and observe the familiar illusion, that the four vertical black
bands seem far from parallel. That they are parallel can be verified
by measurement, or by covering up all of the diagram except the
four main bands. But if the white part of the diagram be conceived
as the design against a black background, then the design is no
longer the same, and with this change the illusion disappears, and
the four bands seem parallel, as they really are. It may require a
little effort to bring about this change, but it is marked when once

    [Illustration: FIG. 5.--When this figure is viewed as
    a black pattern on a white background, the four main
    vertical black bands seem far from parallel; when it
    is viewed as a white pattern on a black background the
    pattern is different and the illusion disappears (or
    nearly so), and the four black bands as well as the
    five white ones seem more nearly parallel.]

A curious optical effect, which in part illustrates the change in
appearance under different aspects, is reproduced in Fig. 6. In
this case the enchantment of distance is necessary to produce the
transformation. Viewed at the usual reading distance, we see nothing
but an irregular and meaningless assemblage of black and white
blotches. At a distance of not less than fifteen to eighteen feet,
however, a man's head appears quite clearly. Also observe that
after the head has once been realized it becomes possible to obtain
suggestions of it at nearer distances.

    [Illustration: FIG. 6.--This is a highly enlarged
    reproduction taken from a half-tone process print of
    Lord Kelvin. It appeared in the _Photographic Times_.]

A much larger class of ambiguous diagrams consists of those which
represent by simple outlines familiar geometrical forms or objects.
We cultivate such a use of our eyes, as indeed of all our faculties,
as will on the whole lead to the most profitable results. As a rule,
the particular impression is not so important as what it represents.
Sense-impressions are simply the symbols or signs of things or
ideas, and the thing or the idea is more important than the sign.
Accordingly, we are accustomed to interpret lines, whenever we
can, as the representations of objects. We are well aware that the
canvas or the etching or the photograph before us is a flat surface
in two dimensions, but we see the picture as the representation of
solid objects in three dimensions. This is the illusion of pictorial
art. So strong is this tendency to view lines as the symbols of
things, that if there is the slightest chance of so viewing them, we
invariably do so; for we have a great deal of experience with things
that present their contours as lines, and very little with mere lines
or surfaces. If we view outlines only, without shading or perspective
or anything to definitely suggest what is foreground and what
background, it becomes possible for the mind to supply these details
and see foreground as background, and _vice versa_.

    [Illustration: FIG. 7.--This drawing may be viewed
    as the representation of a book standing on its
    half-opened covers as seen from the back of the book;
    or as the inside view of an open book showing the

    [Illustration: FIG. 8.--When this figure is viewed
    as an arrow, the upper or feathered end is apt to
    seem flat; when the rest of the arrow is covered, the
    feathered end may be made to project or recede like the
    book-cover in Fig. 7.]

    [Illustration: FIG. 9.--The smaller square may be
    regarded as either the nearer face of a projecting
    figure or as the more distant face of a hollow figure.]

A good example to begin with is Fig. 7. These outlines will probably
suggest at first view a book, or better a book-cover, seen with its
back toward you and its sides sloping away from you; but it may also
be viewed as a book opened out towards you and presenting to you an
inside view of its contents. Should the change not come readily,
it may be facilitated by thinking persistently of the appearance
of an open book in this position. The upper portion of Fig. 8 is
practically the same as Fig. 7, and if the rest of the figure be
covered up, it will change as did the book cover; when, however, the
whole figure is viewed as an arrow, a new conception enters, and the
apparently solid book cover becomes the _flat_ feathered part of the
arrow. Look at the next figure (Fig. 9), which represents in outline
a truncated pyramid with a square base. Is the smaller square nearer
to you, and are the sides of the pyramid sloping away from you toward
the larger square in the rear? Or are you looking into the hollow
of a truncated pyramid with the smaller square in the background?
Or is it now one and now the other, according as you decide to see
it? Here (Fig. 12) is a skeleton box which you may conceive as made
of wires outlining the sides. Now the front, or side nearest to me,
seems directed downward and to the left; again, it has shifted its
position and is no longer the front, and the side which appears to be
the front seems directed upward and to the right. The presence of the
diagonal line makes the change more striking: in one position it runs
from the left-hand _rear_ upper corner to the right-hand _front_
lower corner; while in the other it connects the left-hand _front_
upper corner with the right-hand _rear_ lower corner.

    [Illustration: FIG. 10.--This represents an ordinary
    table-glass,--the bottom of the glass and the entire
    rear side, except the upper portion, being seen through
    the transparent nearer side, and the rear apparently
    projecting above the front. But it fluctuates in
    appearance between this and a view of the glass
    in which the bottom is seen directly, partly from
    underneath, the _whole_ of the rear side is seen
    through the transparent front, and the front projects
    above the back.]

    [Illustration: FIG. 11.--In this scroll the left half
    may at first seem concave and the right convex; it
    then seems to roll or advance like a wave, and the
    left seems convex and the right concave, as though the
    trough of the wave had become the crest, and _vice

    [Illustration: FIG. 12.

    FIG. 12_a_.

    FIG. 12_b_.

    FIGS. 12, 12_a_, 12_b_.--The two methods of viewing Fig.
    12 are described in the text. Figs. 12_a_ and 12_b_
    are added to make clearer the two methods of viewing
    Fig. 12. The heavier lines seem to represent the nearer
    surface. Fig. 12_a_ more naturally suggests the nearer
    surface of the box in a position downward and to the
    left, and Fig. 12_b_ makes the nearer side seem to be
    upward and to the right. But in spite of the heavier
    outlines of the one surface, it may be made to shift
    positions from foreground to background, although not
    so readily as in Fig. 12.]

Fig. 14 will probably seem at first glimpse to be the view of a
flight of steps which one is about to ascend from right to left.
Imagine it, however, to be a view of the under side of a series
of steps; the view representing the structure of overhanging solid
masonwork seen from underneath. At first it may be difficult to see
it thus, because the view of steps which we are about to mount is a
more natural and frequent experience than the other; but by staring
at it with the intention of seeing it differently the transition will
come, and often quite unexpectedly.

    [Illustration: FIG. 13.--Each member of this frieze
    represents a relief ornament, applied upon the
    background, which in cross-section would be an
    isosceles triangle with a large obtuse angle, or a
    space of similar shape hollowed out of the solid wood
    or stone. In running the eye along the pattern, it
    is interesting to observe how variously the patterns
    fluctuate from one of these aspects to the other.]

    [Illustration: FIG. 14.

    FIG. 14_a_.

    FIG. 14_b_.

    FIGS. 14, 14_a_, and 14_b_.--The two views of Fig. 14
    described in the text are brought out more clearly in
    Figs. 14_a_ and 14_b_. The shaded portion tends to
    be regarded as the nearer face. Fig. 14_a_ is more
    apt to suggest the steps seen as we ascend them. Fig.
    14_b_ seems to represent the hollowed-out structure
    underneath the steps. But even with the shading the
    dual interpretation is possible, though less obvious.]

    [Illustration: FIG. 15.--This interesting figure (which
    is reproduced with modifications from _Scripture:
    The New Psychology_) is subject in a striking way
    to interchanges between foreground and background.
    Most persons find it difficult to maintain for any
    considerable time either aspect of the blocks (these
    aspects are described in the text); some can change
    them at will, others must accept the changes as they
    happen to come.]

The blocks in Fig. 15 are subject to a marked fluctuation. Now the
black surfaces represent the bottoms of the blocks, all pointing
downward and to the left, and now the black surfaces have changed
and have become the tops, pointing upward and to the right. For some
the changes come at will; for others they seem to come unexpectedly,
but all are aided by anticipating mentally the nature of the
transformation. The effect here is quite striking, the blocks seeming
almost animated and moving through space. In Fig. 16 a similar
arrangement serves to create an illusion as to the real number of
blocks present. If viewed in one way--the black surface forming the
tops of the blocks--there seem to be six, arranged as in Fig. 17;
but when the transformation has taken place and the black surfaces
have become the overhanging bottoms of the boxes, there are seven,
arranged as in Fig. 18. Somewhat different, but still belonging to
the group of ambiguous figures, is the ingenious conceit of the
duck-rabbit shown in Fig. 19. When it is a rabbit, the face looks
to the right and a pair of ears are conspicuous behind; when it is
a duck, the face looks to the left and the ears have been changed
into the bill. Most observers find it difficult to hold either
interpretation steadily, the fluctuations being frequent, and coming
as a surprise.

    [Illustration: FIG. 16.

    FIG. 16_a_.

    FIG. 16_b_.

    FIGS. 16, 16_a_, and 16_b_.--How many blocks are
    there in this pile? Six or seven? Note the change in
    arrangement of the blocks as they change in number
    from six to seven. This change is described in the
    text. Figs. 16_a_ and 16_b_ show the two phases of a
    group of any three of the blocks. The arrangement of
    a pyramid of six blocks seems the more stable and is
    usually first suggested; but hold the page inverted,
    and you will probably see the alternate arrangement
    (with, however, the black surfaces still forming the
    tops). And once knowing what to look for, you will very
    likely be able to see either arrangement, whether the
    diagram be held inverted or not. This method of viewing
    the figures upside down and in other positions is also
    suggested to bring out the changes indicated in Figs.
    12, 12_a_, 12_b_, and in Figs. 14, 14_a_, 14_b_.]


    [Illustration: FIG. 17.

    FIG. 18.

    T indicates that the shaded portion of Fig. 16 in this
    view represents the top of a block; B that in the other
    view it represents the bottom.]

This collection of diagrams serves to illustrate the principle
that when the objective features are ambiguous, we see one thing
or another according to the impression that is in the mind's eye;
what the objective factors lack in definiteness the subjective
ones supply, while familiarity, prepossession, as well as other
circumstances influence the result. These illustrations show
conclusively that seeing is not wholly an objective matter depending
upon what there is to be seen, but is very considerably a subjective
matter, depending upon the eye that sees. To the same observer a
given arrangement of lines now appears as the representation of one
object and now of another; and from the same objective experience,
especially in instances that demand a somewhat complicated exercise
of the senses, different observers derive very different impressions.

    [Illustration: FIG. 19.--Do you see a duck or a rabbit,
    or either? (From _Harper's Weekly_, originally in
    _Fliegende Blätter_.)]

Not only when the sense-impressions are ambiguous or defective, but
when they are vague--when the light is dim or the forms obscure--does
the mind's eye eke out the imperfections of physical vision. The
vague conformations of drapery and make-up that are identified and
recognized in spiritualistic _séances_ illustrate extreme instances
of this process. The whitewashed tree or post that momentarily
startles us in a dark country lane takes on the guise that expectancy
gives it. The mental predisposition here becomes the dominant factor,
and the timid see as ghosts what their more sturdy companions
recognize as whitewashed posts. Such experiences we ascribe to the
action of suggestion and imagination--the cloud "that's almost in
shape like a camel," or "like a weasel," or "like a whale." But
throughout our visual experiences there runs this double strain, now
mainly outward and now mainly inward, from the simplest excitements
of the retina up to the realms where fancy soars free from the
confines of sense, and the objective finds its occupation gone.


[10] In order to obtain the effects described in the various
illustrations it is necessary in several cases to regard the figures
for a considerable time and with close attention. The reader is
requested not to give up in case the first attempt to secure the
effect is not successful, but to continue the effort for a reasonable
period. Individuals differ considerably in the readiness with which
they obtain such effects; in some cases, such devices as holding the
diagrams inverted, or at an angle, or viewing them with the eyes half
closed, are helpful.



Those who are actively engaged in educational pursuits are called
upon from time to time to consider the nature of the difficulties in
the imparting of knowledge, the psychological impediments that stand
in the way of successful instruction. These are many and various; and
pertain as well to the givers as to the receivers of learning. This
large and well threshed field I have no intention of gleaning once
more; I desire simply to draw attention to one form of difficulty
on the part of the learner, which has been brought home to me so
frequently and at times so forcibly, that I should be inclined to
select it as the most salient stumbling-block in the successful
acquisition of those branches of study which it falls to my lot to

This characteristic, which may be called mental prepossession, is
well illustrated in the following narrative, the truth of which,
however, is not guaranteed. The story dates from the exciting days
when the American public was completely fascinated by the mental
gymnastics of the "spelling bee;" and relates that towards the close
of a very fierce contest with the alphabet, when only a few stalwart
champions remained to encounter the erratic eccentricities of English
orthography, the conductor of the "bee" announced with an air of
grave importance a word that he felt quite certain would retire
not a few of the spelling virtuosi. He then asked their closest
attention to his precise pronunciation, and solemnly gave utterance
to what for all the world sounded like _cat_. Each hearer attempted
to spell this extraordinarily difficult word with a suitably unusual
rearrangement of the letters suggested by the sound, and when each
effort had in turn been pronounced a failure, the information was
given that the correct spelling was _c-a-t_. _Hæc fabula docet_ that
when one expects a difficulty he is apt to find it or to make it.
Believing the problem to be unusual, he applies unusual methods to
its solution; believing it to be complex, he overlooks the simple
means by which its mysteries may be unlocked. It matters little how
this reputation has come about, whether as the result of personal
prejudice or of inherited tradition, whether suggested by the
technicality of the subject or the awkwardness of the treatment,
whether by the use of a few unusual terms or operations, or by any
one of the countless methods, conscious and unconscious, by which
such impressions are formed,--the result will be much the same.

Many a student approaches a study such as psychology or logic with
an unshakable conviction that he is about to consider matters
abstruse and difficult; things totally unrelated to what he has
studied elsewhere or experienced before, and accordingly requiring
an exercise of the mental faculties as different as possible from
that to which he has been accustomed. It is not altogether strange
that such notions should be current, because the tradition to that
effect is ancient and strong, and originated in times when scholars
generally, and philosophers perhaps more than others, took pride in
exclusive erudition, in the possession of a more or less esoteric
wisdom quite unrelated to the knowing and the thinking of οἱ πολλοί
[Greek: hoi polloi]. It requires the combined operation of long
periods of time and of persistent effort to weaken such beliefs; and
it is only within recent times that the notion has been successfully
disseminated that the processes considered in psychology and logic
derive their validity from our daily experience, and require for
their comprehension no mental gymnastics or intellectual contortions;
that in brief these sciences simply aim to systematize and improve,
to interpret and explain the every-day processes by which knowledge
is gained. This, at all events, is one of their functions, and one
profitably emphasized in the introductory study of their scope and

When one has once formed the impression, or has had it produced or
suggested for him, that the study or the task he is about to attack
is a difficult one, his mental powers are at once sufficiently
reduced to make it really difficult; the signal is given of an
approaching intricate turn in the road, the brakes are turned on,
and the train of thought creeps along slowly. Mental prepossession
leads to mental inertia. The same question which the student would
answer readily and fully when asked by a friend as an item of general
information, becomes utterly beyond his comprehension when it appears
in the text-book, the title-page of which bears the ominous name
of one or other of the studies reputed as difficult. The mind is
not properly set; there is little receptiveness, little alertness.
When we are asked in a conundrum-like tone, why one thing is
like another, we ignore obvious and simple resemblances, and look
about for obscure ones. The student who labors under the illusion
that psychology is a maze of conundrums, employs mental processes
appropriate to such a pursuit. The schoolboy finds it impossible to
answer a question in arithmetic during the geography lesson, and the
same lack of adaptability is shown by his older counterpart when
he greets the answer to a very simple question (which, however, he
himself failed to answer) with the all too familiar, "Oh, of course
I knew _that_." Perhaps the most extreme instance of the many that
I could cite is that of a student so irresponsive and apparently at
sea regarding the topic under discussion--the senses--as to force me
to ask him, "With what do you hear?" and who answered with perfect
sincerity, "I don't know." This was a psychological question, and as
such became as difficult as the spelling of _cat_ at the end of a
"spelling bee."

When the student has been made to feel that the questions he is
asked can be answered from his everyday experience, and that common
sense is often quite as serviceable a guide as special knowledge,
a progress ensues in every way satisfactory. Such a conviction,
however, is not a matter of verbal acknowledgment; it yields slowly
to explanation and proceeds somewhat unconsciously and inwardly.
Moreover, it is a trait very sensitive to the power of contagion, so
that a comparatively small proportion of the class may successfully
spread this mental attitude to the whole number. A question which
two or three have failed to answer becomes invested with a spurious
difficulty which makes it a deep mystery to all the others.

This mental prepossession may at times have quite different and
curious results. When, for instance, the goal to be reached is
given, when the answer may be looked up in the back of the book, it
is surprising what peculiar and irrational steps will be taken to
secure and justify the answer so given. This is all the more striking
when the answer happens to be wrong; however simply such error may
be discovered, the prepossessed mind will work away until by a more
or less roundabout procedure the desired answer is reached. A noted
professor of chemistry has an apt illustration of such a case. In
a chemical test his assistant by mistake referred the class to the
wrong bottle, so that the substance which the correct liquid would
have dissolved could not be at all dissolved in the liquid actually
used. However, on the professor's next round in his laboratory nearly
every student assured him that the substance had dissolved, and a few
went so far as to describe the precise manner of its dissolution.

It is quite clear that illustrations of mental prepossession, as also
of inertia, may be found in many of the industries and occupations
of life. The bicycle has added a very characteristic one. At a
certain stage in the acquisition of the art of cycling, there comes
a time when every obstacle and irregularity in the road absorbs the
attention of the rider with a fascination that is quite irresistible.
The rider is so possessed with the idea that he or she is going to
run into the post or the curb or a rut or another vehicle, that
the dreaded calamity may actually ensue. When the attention can be
directed to the clear pathway, and the obstacles driven out from the
focus of attention, the difficulty is surmounted. So in jumping
or running and in other athletic trials, the entertainment of the
notion of a possible failure to reach the mark lessens the intensity
of one's effort, and prevents the accomplishment of one's best. He
who hesitates is lost, because the hesitation makes possible the
suggestion of a failure, the prepossession by a sense of difficulty.


Some of the illustrations of prepossession are somewhat trivial;
others more important, but perhaps not so definite as might be
desired. It is seldom that an instance of this propensity can be
pointed out in which an accurate and quantitative comparison may
be made between the possessed and the unpossessed mind. One such
illustration, which seems to me comprehensive and significant, is
worthy of more detailed record.[11] It is derived from the experience
of the United States Census office in 1890, in tabulating the returns
of the enumeration by means of machines specially devised for this
purpose. I give an account of the manipulation of these machines in
the words of one who had an intimate acquaintance with their use,
and add italics to emphasize the points of special psychological

"The adoption of Mr. Hollerith's tabulating machine for counting
the population of the country according, at one and the same time,
to sex, color, age, marital condition, nationality, occupation or
profession, language and school attendance presented an entirely
novel problem to the office. The machines having never been used
for any purpose, there was no previous experience by which to act
or on which to predicate results. The necessity was upon the office
of employing for a very limited time (ninety days) at least five
hundred people for this work alone, in addition to the one thousand
who could be taken from other branches of the work and placed on this
one. Every one, including Mr. Hollerith himself, felt that the rapid
and accurate use of the punching machines called for a degree of
cultivated intelligence not possessed by every clerk. So much for the
mental attitude.

"The clerks (an instructor for every twenty) were taught to edit
the family schedules from which the count was to be made, thus
learning thoroughly how to read and classify the returns. In order
to accommodate the returns to the capacity of a punching machine,
a great variety of symbols were adopted for occupations and
professions: thus Ad was used for farmer: Ac for farm hands: Kd for
merchants: Gd for agents, etc., through twenty-four two-columned
octavo pages of ordinary type. Some one symbol must be used for each
occupation recorded, and the use of the symbols must be learned, and,
for rapid work, they must be committed to memory.[12] _After five
weeks of editing_, one by one, the most reliable and intelligent
workers were set to use the punching machines. The task is much like
that of using a typewriter, substituting for keys a movable punch
which passes through lettered holes, and in place of the forty keys
of an ordinary typewriter, about two hundred and fifty holes are to
be learned.

"Mr. Hollerith set the number of cards for a day's work at 550.
(Each finished card contained, on the average, 10 holes.) _It was
two weeks before that number of cards was reached by any clerk_, and
that only in exceptional cases. Then the entire force of the division
was set to work. In two weeks most of them had reached five hundred,
and the average was daily increasing. These clerks worked at first
from edited schedules; that is, those on which had been written
the symbols to be punched on the machine. A roll of honor was made
out daily showing the highest records, and _in a week_ the clerks
were doing from _six hundred to fifteen hundred a day_, but at a
great cost of nervous force. So severe was the nervous strain that
complaints were made to the Secretary of the Interior, who forbade
any further posting of daily reports, and instead an order was posted
that no clerk was required to do more than such a day's work as he or
she could readily perform, and that no arbitrary number was required
of any one.

"_After the work was well under way about two hundred new clerks were
put into one room and scattered through the force already at work.
They had no experience with schedules, knew nothing of the symbols,
had never seen the machines. They saw those around them working
easily and rapidly, and in_ THREE DAYS SEVERAL OF THEM HAD DONE FIVE
HUNDRED, IN A WEEK NEARLY EVERY ONE, _while the general average was
rising_. There was no longer any question of nervous strain, and one
of these temporary clerks the day before she left beat the record by
doing 2,230. I think the influence of the mental attitude quite as
remarkable in the matter of their doing the work easily as in that of
doing it rapidly. During the first month many were actually sick from
overwork when doing seven hundred, while after that time the idea
that the work was unusually trying was never referred to. Another
significant fact is that after the posting of the daily record was
abolished there was no falling off in the daily average, as had been
anticipated, while complaints of overwork necessarily ceased."

It is thus demonstrated that an unskilled clerk, with an environment
proving the possibility of a task and suggesting its easy
accomplishment, can in _three days_ succeed in doing what a skilled
clerk, with a preliminary acquaintance of five weeks with the symbols
to be used, could do only after _two weeks'_ practice; and this
because the latter, doubtless not a whit inferior in ability, had
been led to regard his task as difficult.


If we consider the psychological relations of the processes involved
in the above illustrations, we are led to the conviction that we
seldom exert our powers to their full capacity. Instances in which,
under the influence of some stirring, perhaps dangerous circumstance,
persons exert physical energies ordinarily beyond their resources,
are quite familiar; and the same is true though less readily
demonstrated of mental effort. The success of the various methods of
"mind cure," in which the conviction of the possibility of a cure so
markedly aids its realization, adds another class of illustrations;
and among the experiments with hypnotized persons occur countless
instances of the performance of actions, both physical and mental,
quite surpassing what is regarded as normal. The powers which are
here called upon through somewhat extreme and drastic means, can
doubtless be drawn upon to a less extent by the use of more moderate
agencies; and this at once suggests the educational utilization of
the mental attitude in question. Perhaps the ideal aim is to impress
the student indirectly rather than directly, by manner rather than
by instruction, with the conviction that what is required of him is
well within his powers; and to do this without in the least impugning
the necessity of honest, hard work for the accomplishment of serious
results. The complaint is often made that the American boy takes
longer by several years to reach a given grade of scholarship than
his foreign brother; and the reason of this difference is usually
assigned to the extremely slow progress made in the elementary public
schools. The machinery is started at too slow a rate, and seems to
leave the impress of its inertia upon all succeeding periods.

It is not possible to devise any readily formulated and easily
applied cure for this mental prepossession; our aim must be to
sterilize the mental atmosphere, so that the germs of the disease may
not gain a foothold; to set a healthy normal step and take it for
granted that it can be followed by all but the laggards. But in spite
of all effort, the failing is quite certain to crop out, and will
always continue to demand for its treatment much educational tact and

When we come to a slippery place in the road, we involuntarily take
short steps and become extremely conscious of our locomotion. It is
important to prevent the growth of the habit of imagining slippery
places in the paths about to be trodden; and even when they are
actually to be encountered, it is well to meet them with the bracing
effort that comes from the use of a reserve energy, to proceed
without too much consciousness of the path, and with as nearly a
normal gait as possible. There are sufficient difficulties in the
various walks of life without adding to them those that arise from
mental prepossession, and that lead to mental inertia.


[11] This account I owe to Mrs. May Cole Baker, of Washington, D.C.

[12] It should be noted that it is only the classification of
occupations that requires so extremely elaborate and artificial a
system; the returns for nationality, age, sex, marital condition,
etc., are far simpler to record. The editing consists in writing the
symbols on the returns, so that they need not be memorized.



Quite a number of delusions find a common point of origin in the
natural tendency to view our mental life--the aggregate of our
thoughts and doings--as coextensive with the experiences of which
our consciousness gives information and which our will directs.
The significance of the unconscious and the involuntary is apt to
be underestimated or disregarded. We are more ready to acknowledge
that in certain unusual and semi-morbid conditions persons will
exhibit these peculiar expressions of the subterranean strata
of our mental structure--that some have the habit of walking or
talking in their sleep, that others occasionally fall into an
automatic, trance-like condition, that hypnotism and hysteria and
obscure lapses of consciousness and alterations of personality
bring to the surface curious specimens of the mysteries of this
underworld,--but we are slow to appreciate that the subconscious and
the involuntary find a common and a natural place amidst the soundly
reasoned and aptly directed activities of our own intelligence.
While it is reasonable and proper to have faith in the testimony
of consciousness, it is desirable that this confidence should be
accompanied by an understanding of the conditions under which such
testimony is presumably valid, and when presumably defective or
misleading. Sense-deceptions, faulty observation, distraction,
exaggeration, illusion, fallacy, and error are not idle abstract
fancies of the psychologist, but stern realities; and their existence
emphasizes the need in the determination of truth and the maintenance
of a sound rationality, of a calm, unprejudiced judgment, of an
experienced and balanced intelligence, of a discerning sense for nice
distinctions, of an appreciation of the circumstances under which it
is peculiarly human to err. A demonstration of the readiness with
which perfectly normal individuals may be induced to yield visible
evidence of unconscious and involuntary processes, thus possesses a
special interest; for when the naturalness of a few definite types
of involuntary movements is made clear, the application of the
experience to more complex and more indefinite circumstances will
easily and logically follow. While the circumstances under which
involuntary indications of mental activity are ordinarily given,
are too various to enable one to say _ab uno disce omnes_, yet the
principle demonstrated in one case is capable of a considerable
generalization, which will go far to prevent misconception of
apparently mysterious and exceptional phenomena.


When some years ago, the American public was confronted with the
striking exhibitions of muscle-reading, the wildest speculations were
indulged in regarding its true _modus operandi_; and the suggestion
that all that was done was explicable by the skillful interpretation
of the unconscious indications given by the subjects, was scouted
or even ridiculed. It was not supposed that such indications were
sufficiently definite for the purposes of the "mind-reader," or were
obtainable under the conditions of his tests. Again, it was urged
that this explanation was hardly applicable to certain striking
performances, which in reality involved other and subtler modes
of thought-interpretation, and the accounts of which were also
exaggerated and distorted. And furthermore, it was argued, too many
worthy and learned persons were absolutely certain that they had
given no indications whatever. For a time the view that mind-reading
was muscle-reading rested upon rather indirect evidence, and upon
a form of argument that carries more weight with those familiar
with the nature of scientific problems than with the public at
large. But the development of experimental research in the domain
of psychology has made possible a variety of demonstrations of the
truth and adequacy of this explanation. It was with the purpose of
securing a visible record of certain types of involuntary movements,
that the investigation, the results of which are here presented, was

    [Illustration: FIG. 1.--THE AUTOMATOGRAPH. When in use
    a screen (not shown in the illustration) cuts off the
    view of the apparatus from the subject. The recording
    device, which may also be used separately, is shown in
    outline in half its full size. R is a glass rod which
    moves freely up and down in the glass tube T, which is
    set into the cork C. A rubber band B is provided to
    prevent the rod from falling through the tube, when not
    resting upon the recording-plate.]

Inasmuch as the movements in question are often very slight, somewhat
delicate apparatus is required to secure their record; the apparatus
must in a measure exaggerate the tendency to motion though without
altering its nature. The form of apparatus which I devised for this
study, and which may be appropriately called an automatograph, is
illustrated in the accompanying figure (p. 310). It consists of a
wooden frame, enclosing a heavy piece of plate glass (fifteen inches
square), and mounted upon three legs which are provided with screw
adjustments for bringing the plate into a perfect level. Upon the
plate of glass are placed in the form of a triangle three well turned
and polished steel or brass balls; and upon the balls rests a thin
crystal-plate glass set in a light wooden frame. The finger-tips of
one hand rest upon the upper plate in the position indicated. When
all is properly adjusted and glass and balls are rubbed smooth with
oil, it is quite impossible to hold the apparatus perfectly still for
more than a few seconds; the slightest unsteadiness or movement of
the hand at once sets the plate rolling with an irregular motion. If
one closes the eyes and fixes the attention upon a definite mental
image or train of thought, it is easy to form the conviction that
the plate remains quiet, but the record proves that this is not the
case. The other parts of the apparatus are designed to give a record
of the movements of the plate. Fastened to the light frame containing
the upper glass plate is a slender rod some ten inches long, bearing
at its end a cork; and piercing the cork is a small glass tube within
which a snugly fitting glass rod has room to move. The rod is drawn
to a smooth, round point; and when in position rests upon a piece of
glazed paper that has been blackened over a flame and then smoothly
stretched over a small glass plate. The point of the rod thus records
easily and accurately every movement of the hand that is imparted to
the upper plate, and by the manner of its adjustment accommodates
itself to all irregularities of movement or recording surface. This
recording device is shown in greater detail in the illustration, and
was used to good advantage as a simple automatograph in independence
of the balls and plates. In that case the recording part is held in
the hand as though it were a pencil, but in a vertical position, and
the record plate may be placed upon a table; or for special purposes
the plate may be held in the other hand or fastened to the top of
one's head. When not otherwise stated, the records here reproduced
were obtained by use of the automatograph. Some of the records are
noted as having been secured with the simpler device just described.

The process of securing a record is as follows: the subject,
standing, places his hand upon the automatograph, with the arm nearly
horizontal and not quite fully extended, and the elbow bent in a
fairly comfortable posture; his attention is engaged by asking him
to listen to and count the strokes of a metronome; to look at and
count the oscillations of a pendulum; to read from a book; to call
out the names of colors; to think of a given direction or locality,
or the position of an object; and so on. He is instructed to think as
little as possible of his hand, making a reasonable effort to keep
it from moving. To cut off the apparatus from the subject's field of
vision and attention, a large screen is interposed between him and
the record, a curtain with a suitable opening for the arm forming
part of the screen. The operator holds the glass pencil in his hand,
and when all is in readiness allows it to slip through the glass tube
and begin to write, removing it again after a definite interval or
when the record seems completed.


    [Illustration: FIG. 2.--READING COLORS. Time of record,
    95 seconds. Position of colors →. Subject facing →.
    In all the figures A represents the beginning of
    the record, and Z the end. The arrows are used to
    indicate the direction in which the object attended
    to was situated, and also the direction in which the
    subject was facing. The tracings are permanently fixed
    by coating them with a weak solution of shellac in

We may now consider a few typical results. Fig. 2, an ordinary
average result, was obtained while the subject was calling out the
names of a series of small patches of color, displayed on the wall
facing him, about eight feet distant. It will be observed that the
movement (which in all the illustrations has its beginning marked
by an A and its end by a Z) proceeds irregularly but decidedly
_towards_ the object upon which the attention was fixed. As a rule
the subject is unaware of the movement which his hand has made, and
exercises no essential control over the results; indeed it is likely
that he is considerably surprised when the results are first shown
to him. At times he becomes conscious of the loss of equilibrium of
the apparatus, but the indication is rarely sufficiently definite
to inform him of the direction of the movement. Not infrequently,
the movement is performed with complete unconsciousness, and is
accompanied by a strong conviction that the apparatus has been
stationary. In several cases an intentional simulation of the
movements was produced for comparison with the involuntary records;
the result was quite generally a very different and coarser type of
movement, readily distinguishable from the involuntary writings. A
prominent characteristic of practically all of the movements is their
irregular and jerky character; the hand for a time oscillates about
uncertainly, and then moves rather suddenly and quickly in a given
direction; then another period of hesitation, again a more or less
sharp advance, and so on. It is probable that it is these repeated
brief movements of more vigorous indication of the direction of the
subject's attention, that the muscle-reader waits for and utilizes.

    [Illustration: FIG. 3.--READING COLORS ARRANGED IN
    THREE ROWS. Time of record, 90 seconds. The first
    line was read in the direction ↓; the second in the
    direction ↑; and the third again ↓. At the turn from
    the second to the third line the record is interrupted.
    Shows movement of the hand parallel with the movement
    of the attention.]

It is obvious enough that the results of a test of this kind cannot
be anticipated, not alone because there are marked differences
between individuals in the readiness with which they will manifest
involuntary movements, but also because the intensity of the
attention and the momentary condition of the subject are important
and variable factors in the result. With very good subjects it
becomes quite safe to predict the general nature of the tracing;
and the different tracings of the same subject often bear a family
resemblance. We must now learn what we can of the various factors
which influence these subconscious handwritings. That indefinitely
complex combination of natural and nurtural circumstances, to which
we give the name of character, or individuality, or personality,
doubtless presents the most striking factor in this, as it does in
normal handwriting; and in both cases analyses are inevitably vague
and confined to prominent points of difference. Extreme types are
always interesting and at times instructive. The tracing of Fig.
3 was obtained under the same circumstances as Fig. 2, but with a
subject whose tendency towards involuntary movements is far more
marked, is indeed unusual. The total extent of the movement is
more than three times as great as in the former case, and it twice
changes its direction. This latter characteristic is the noteworthy
one, for it is due to the fact that the colors which the subject
was reading were arranged in three rows; the first row was read
from left to right (corresponding to a downward direction in the
figure); the second row was read in the reversed direction; and
the third row in the original direction again. The completeness of
correspondence between the movements of the hand and of the attention
leaves nothing to be desired. This subject yielded the most extensive
and predictable involuntary movements of any whom I tested. A
satisfactory impression of the variety and range of the individual
differences which subjects, chosen somewhat at random, are likely
to present, may be gathered from the series of records which will be
reproduced as illustrative also of other influences. In Fig. 4 is
represented another average record quite similar to that of Fig. 2
but produced by another subject, while reading from a printed page
for three-quarters of a minute; as before the hand moves towards the
focus of attention. It would be easy to present both more decided
and extensive, and more uncertain involuntary records of still other
subjects; while negative or quite indeterminate tracings are by no
means uncommon.

    [Illustration: FIG. 4.--READING FROM PRINTED PAGE. Time
    of record, 45 seconds. Direction of the attention →.
    Subject facing →.]

When, to vary the nature of the impression to which the attention
is directed, a metronome is used, and to insure attention on the
part of the subject he is required to count the strokes, it may be
that another form of involuntary movement appears. The tendency
to beat time to enlivening music by tapping with the hands, or
stamping with the feet, or nodding with the head, is most familiar;
and Dr. Lombard has shown that music is capable of effecting such
thoroughly involuntary movements as the sudden rise of the leg that
follows reflexly upon a blow on the patella of the knee. It is not
surprising, therefore, to find evidences of periodic movements in
these automatograms; and in some instances, such as Fig. 5, this
pervades the whole record. Here the hand moves to and fro, keeping
time--not accurately at all, but in a general way--with the strokes
of the metronome.

    [Illustration: FIG. 5.--COUNTING THE STROKES OF A
    METRONOME. Shows the oscillations of the movements with
    the strokes of the metronome.]

    A PENDULUM. Time of record, 45 seconds. Direction of
    the attention →. Subject facing →. The points 1, 2, 3,
    show the positions of the writing-point, 15, 30, and 45
    seconds after the record was started.]

To obtain similar results for a visual impression a silently swinging
pendulum is used, the subject following the oscillations with his
eyes and counting them. The result is more frequently simply a
movement towards the pendulum, Fig. 6; but occasionally there appear
periodic movements induced by those of the pendulum. A very excellent
instance of the latter appears in Fig. 7 (p. 318).

    Time of record, 80 seconds. Shows movement at first
    toward the pendulum, and then synchronous with its

    [Illustration: FIG. 8.--THINKING OF A HIDDEN OBJECT.
    Time of record, 30 seconds. Direction of the attention

    [Illustration: FIG. 9.--READING FROM PRINTED PAGE. The
    page was moved about the subject in the direction of
    the arrows.

          ↑ 2   4 ↑
              ←      ]

We may more closely approximate the ordinary experiment of the
muscle-reader by giving the subject some object to hide, say a knife,
and then asking him to place his hand upon the automatograph, and
to think intently of the place of concealment. As before there is a
movement of the hand; and on the basis of the general direction of
this movement one may venture a prediction of the direction in which
the knife lies. The results will show all grades of success, from
complete failure to an accurate localizing of the object; but as good
a record as Fig. 8 is not infrequent. As indicated by the letters and
the arrow, the hand moved irregularly toward the hidden knife. In
this case the eyes are closed, and the concentration of the attention
is maintained by a mental effort without the aid of the senses. The
peculiar line of Fig. 9 was obtained in an experiment in which a book
was slowly carried about the room, the subject being required to read
continuously from the page. It is evident that the hand followed
the movement of the attention, not in a circle but in an irregular
outline closing in upon itself; the change in posture which this
process involved has an undoubted influence upon the result.

    [Illustration: FIG. 10.--COUNTING PENDULUM
    OSCILLATIONS. Time of record, 120 seconds. Direction
    of the attention →. Subject facing →. Illustrates slow
    and indirect movement. The points, 1, 2, 3, 4, indicate
    the position of the writing-point, 30, 60, 90, and 120
    seconds after the record was started.]

    [Illustration: FIG. 11.--COUNTING THE STROKES OF A
    METRONOME. Time of record, 70 seconds. The points, 1,
    2, 3, 4, indicate the positions of the writing point
    at 15, 30, 45, and 60 seconds after the record was
    begun. Direction of the attention →. Subject facing →.
    Illustrates slight hesitation at first and then a rapid
    movement toward the object of attention. Reduced to ¾

    [Illustration: FIG. 12.--COUNTING THE STROKES OF A
    METRONOME. Time of record, 90 seconds. Direction of
    attention →. Subject facing →. Illustrates initial
    directness of movement followed by hesitancy.]

Before passing to a more specific interpretation of the data, it
may be interesting to illustrate more fully the scope of individual
variations; for the great difference in availability of subjects
to the muscle-reader is equally prominent in tests with the
automatograph. Some movements are direct and extensive, others are
circuitous and brief. Fig. 10 is a good type of a small movement, but
of one quite constantly toward the object of the attention. This may
be contrasted with an extreme record, not here reproduced, in which
there is a movement of six and a half inches in forty-five seconds;
or with a fairly extensive movement as in Fig. 11. In some cases the
first impulse carries the hand toward the object of thought, and
is followed by considerable hesitation and uncertainty; a marked
example of this tendency may be seen in Fig. 12. There is, too, an
opposite type, in which the initial movements are variable, and the
significant movement toward the object of thought comes later, when
perhaps there is some fatigue. This tendency appears somewhat in
Figs. 11 and 13.

    [Illustration: FIG. 13.--THINKING OF A LOCALITY. Time
    of record, 120 seconds. Direction of the attention
    ←. Subject facing ←. Illustrates initial hesitancy
    followed by a steady movement toward the object thought


What is the origin of the movements involved in these records? To
what extent are they movements of the hand, of the arm, or of the
entire body? Casual observation is sufficient to show that with a
given position of the arm, certain movements are much more readily
made than others; and the involuntary tendencies will naturally
follow the lines of least resistance. If, for instance, you hold your
arm nearly on a level with the shoulders and in line with them, you
perceive at once that movements of the hand to the front are much
more readily made than to the rear, and movements toward the body
more readily than those away from the body; the tendency of the hand
is to move forward in a circle of which the shoulder is the centre.
What we require is a position in which movements in any one direction
are as readily made as in any other; and this may be approximated,
though only approximated, by holding the hand at an angle of about
45° with the line joining the shoulders, and with the elbow bent at
an angle of about 120°. This was the position in most of the tests,
and the usual result was a movement toward the object of attention;
but when the object attended to lies in back of the subject, this
tendency is sometimes outweighed by the natural tendency for the arm
to move forward, and the result may be a movement _forward_, but a
less direct movement forward than when the object of attention is
to the front. In a good subject, however, the involuntary tendency
is strong enough to prevail, and a movement _backward_ results. An
instance of this, obtained under other but comparable circumstances,
appears in Fig. 14. It is to be noted that in this figure the tracing
marked I. was obtained with the subject seated, and the metronome
beating behind him; the hand after some hesitation moves backward
slowly towards the metronome to a moderate extent. In tracing II.,
with the subject also seated, the metronome is to the front, and
the hand moves directly and quickly towards it. We conclude that
the position of the body is an important factor in the resultant
movements, but that it does not interfere with their accepted
psychological interpretation.

    [Illustration: FIG. 14.--COUNTING THE STROKES OF A
    METRONOME. Subject seated. In tracing I. the metronome
    is at the rear. Time of record, 105 seconds. Direction
    of the attention ←. Subject facing →. In tracing II.
    the metronome was to the front. Time of record 45
    seconds. Direction of the attention →. Subject facing
    →. ⅘ size.]

    [Illustration: FIG. 15.--COUNTING THE STROKES OF A
    METRONOME. Time of record, 45 seconds. The upper
    tracing shows the movements of the head recorded upon
    a plate resting on the head. The lower tracing shows
    the usual record of the hand upon the automatograph.
    Direction of the attention →. Subject facing →.]

When observing the subject during a test, we may note the movements
of the body as a whole, and of the arm or hand. The movement of
the body is an irregular swaying with the feet as the centre of
the movement; this swaying is most readily recorded by fixing the
recording-plate upon the subject's head, and having the recording-rod
held in a suitable position above it. It was found that in connection
with the swaying movements there were general movements towards the
object of attention; and such movements were as readily made when
the object was to the front, to the rear, or to either side. To
determine how far this movement is the same in head and hand, it is
necessary to record both simultaneously. Fig. 15 illustrates the
correspondence of the two movements. It thus becomes clear that the
swaying of the body as a whole constitutes an important factor of
these automatograph records; that the movements of the head (being
farther away from the centre of motion) are more extensive than those
of the hand; and that both head and hand are sensitive organs for the
expression of involuntary movements. That the muscle-reader is aware
of this fact is obvious from the usual positions which he maintains
towards his subject in reading the direction of the hidden object.

    [Illustration: FIG. 16.--COUNTING THE STROKES OF A
    METRONOME. Right hand holds the pencil, and left hand
    holds the record plate. Direction of metronome →.
    Subject facing →. In the upper tracing the subject was
    standing; time of record, 90 seconds. In the lower
    tracing the subject was sitting; time of record, 90

    [Illustration: FIG. 17.--THINKING OF A BUILDING.
    Right hand holds pencil, and left hand holds record
    plate. Subject facing ↑. In tracing I., direction of
    the attention ↑; in tracing II., direction of the
    attention ↓. Time of each record, 60 seconds. II. shows
    respiration records.]

    [Illustration: FIG. 18.--COUNTING THE STROKES OF A
    METRONOME. Right hand holds pencil, left hand holds
    record plate. Direction of the attention from A to B ↑,
    from B to C →, from C to D ↓, from D to E ←. Time of
    each portion, 45 seconds.]

To eliminate the record of the swaying of the body, we may experiment
with the subject seated; we obtain a distinctive record in which
certain phases of the fluctuations have almost disappeared, and
in which the record approximates to a straight line (tracing II.
of Fig. 14). One may also eliminate the record of the swaying by
dispensing with the automatograph, and simply holding the recording
plate in one hand and the recording device or pencil in the other;
for then the plate and pencil sway together, and naturally no record
of it is made. The relatively fine movements thus obtained are shown
in Fig. 16; the contrast between this record and such records as
Figs. 4, 5, 6, is mainly the contrast between a record in which
the general swaying of the body is registered, and one from which
it has been eliminated. It is interesting to note that in records
thus taken, there is but a slight difference in the result when the
subject is standing and when he is sitting; which is a further proof
that the swaying of the body has been eliminated. (Compare these with
Fig. 14.) Traces of periodic oscillations are noticeable in Fig. 16;
these are due to movements of respiration, and in tracing II. of
Fig. 17, they are unusually distinct and regular, about twenty to
the minute. In this case the forearm of the hand holding the record
plate was braced against the body, while the recording hand was held
free from it; and thus the abdominal movements were registered. The
movements toward the object of attention appear throughout. Fig.
17 shows a movement towards the rear of the subject, as well as
towards the front; which again shows that under suitable conditions,
involuntary movements may be recorded in one direction as readily
as in another. Fig. 18 presents a most beautifully regular movement
in all four directions. As the metronome, the strokes of which the
subject was counting, was carried from one corner of the room to
another and so on around the room, the hand involuntarily followed
it and recorded an almost perfect square. So striking and regular and
so varied an involuntary movement, in conformity with changes in the
direction of attention, one can expect to secure but seldom, and then
only with a good subject.

    [Illustration: FIG. 19.--THINKING OF A BUILDING. Both
    hands hold record plates, the pencils being held fixed
    above them. Time of record 35 seconds. Direction of
    the attention ↓. Subject facing ↓. I., left hand: II.,
    right hand.]

The outline presented in Fig. 19 was obtained in a test in which
the movements of the hands were separately recorded, in order to
determine the degree of correspondence between them. The result
shows a marked general resemblance, indicating in part a common
origin of the two movements. The next figure, Fig. 20, shows that
this correspondence is dependent in part upon the similarity of the
positions of the two hands. The hand that is held away from the body
moves more extensively; but the form of the movements remain similar.
The records reproduced in Figs. 14-22 and 26 were obtained upon the
same subject, though with slightly varying conditions, and are fairly
comparable with one another, and thus illustrate the analysis of the
resultant movements into their component factors.

    [Illustration: FIG. 20.--THINKING OF A BUILDING. Each
    hand holds record plate. Time of record, 35 seconds.
    Direction of the attention ↓. Subject facing ↓. I.,
    left hand held extended far out. II., right hand held
    close to body.]

    [Illustration: FIG. 21.--THINKING OF ONE'S FEET. Record
    plate vertical. Time of record, 45 seconds. Direction
    of the attention ↓. II., thinking of a point overhead.
    Time of record, 45 seconds. Recording plate vertical.
    Direction of the attention ↑.]

Involuntary movements are not limited to the horizontal plane;
vertical movements may be recorded by holding the recording device
in a slanting position, and fixing the record plate upon the wall.
The main characteristic of such a record is the sinking of the arm
through fatigue; the movement is rapid and coarse (tracing I. of
Fig. 20). If the attention be directed to the front, we obtain a
resultant of the tendency to move towards the object of attention,
and of the sinking of the arm, as appears in the diagonal line of
Fig. 22. Fig. 21 illustrates an interesting point similar to that
illustrated in Fig. 14. When the attention is directed downward, the
hand falls rapidly (tracing I.); but when the attention is directed
upward, very little movement at all takes place,--the tendency to
move towards the object of attention constantly counteracting the
tendency for the arm to fall (tracing II.).

    [Illustration: FIG. 22.--COUNTING THE STROKES OF A
    METRONOME. Record plate vertical. Pencil held in
    extended right hand. Time of record, 20 seconds.
    Direction of the attention ←. Subject facing ←.]


While I have not been altogether successful in determining by this
method the relative efficiency of different sense-impressions
in holding the attention, the successful results are especially
interesting. In Fig. 23 the tracing marked I. shows the movement of
the hand during the thirty-five seconds that the subject was counting
the strokes of a metronome; tracing II. shows the movement while
counting for twenty-five seconds the oscillations of a pendulum. The
latter movement is in this case much more extensive than the former,
thus indicating that the visual impression held the attention much
better than the auditory. The subject of this record is a well-known
writer and novelist; and his description of his own mental processes
entirely accords with this result; he is a good visualizer, and
visual impressions and memory-images dominate his mental habits.

    [Illustration: FIG. 23.--I. COUNTING THE STROKES OF A
    METRONOME. Automatograph record. Time of record, 35
    seconds. Direction of the attention →. Subject facing
    record. Time of record, 25 seconds. Direction of the
    attention →. Subject facing →.]

    [Illustration: FIG. 24.--FROM A TO A´, READING
    Automatograph record. Time of record, from A to A´,
    35 seconds; from A´ on, 25 seconds. Direction of the
    attention→. Subject facing →.]

We may next turn to Fig. 24. The subject was asked to call the names
of a series of small patches of color hanging upon the wall in front
of him. He did this with some uncertainty for thirty-five seconds,
and during this time his hand on the automatograph moved from A to
A´. At the latter point he was asked to count the oscillations of a
pendulum; this entirely changed the movement, the hand at once moving
rapidly toward the pendulum. The pendulum was a more attractive
sense-impression than the colors. The special point of interest in
this record is, that upon examination the subject's color-vision
proved to be defective, and thus accounted for the failure of the
colors to hold his attention.

    [Illustration: FIG. 25.--COUNTING PENDULUM
    OSCILLATIONS. Time of record, 35 seconds. The record
    from B to C is continuous with that of A to B.
    Direction of the attention →. Subject facing →. The
    subject, a child of eleven years. Record reduced to ⅘
    of original size.]

An important problem relates to the possible correlation of types
of involuntary movements with age, sex, temperament, disease, and
the like. A few observations upon children are interesting in this
respect. They reveal the limited control that children have over
their muscles, and their difficulty to fix the attention when and
where desired. Their involuntary movements are large, with great
fluctuations, and irregularly towards the object of attention. Fig.
25 illustrates some of these points; in thirty-five seconds the
child's hand moved by large steps seven inches toward the pendulum,
and the entire appearance of the outline is different from those
obtained upon adults.

    [Illustration: FIG. 26.--THINKING OF LETTER O. Pencil
    held in hand; record on table. I., subject standing;
    II., subject seated.]

Much attention has recently been paid to automatic writing, or the
unconscious indication of the _nature_, not merely the _direction_
of one's thoughts, while the attention is elsewhere engaged. I
attempted this upon the automatograph by asking the subject to view
or think of some letter or geometric figure, and then searching the
record for some trace of the letter or figure; but always with a
negative result. While unsuccessful in this sense, the records prove
of value in furnishing a salient contrast to the experiments in
which the attention was fixed in a definite direction. For example,
the subject is thinking of the letter O; he does not think of it as
in any special place, and the record (Fig. 26) likewise reveals no
movement in any one direction. Two records are shown quite similar
in significance, and illustrating as well the difference between the
movements while standing and while sitting.


There have thus been passed in review a variety of involuntary
movements obtained in different ways, and with bearings upon many
points of importance to the psychologist. They by no means exhaust
the possibilities of research, or the deduction of conclusions in
this field of study; but they may serve to illustrate how subtle
and intricate are the expressions of the thoughts that lie within.
That involuntary movements are by no means limited to the type here
illustrated is easily shown. In the exhibitions of muscle-reading,
the changes in breathing, the flushing, the tremor of the subject
when the reader approaches the hiding-place, and the relative
relaxation when he is on the wrong scent, serve as valuable clues;
to borrow the apt expression of "hide and seek," the performer
grows "hot" and "cold" with his subject. Then, too, the tentative
excursions in one direction and another, to determine in which the
subject follows with least resistance, present another variation
of the same process. The hushed calm of the audience when success
is near, the restlessness and whispering during a false scent, are
equally welcome suggestions which a clever performer freely utilizes,
thereby adding to the éclat of his exhibition. When a combination
of numbers or of letters in a word is to be guessed, the operator
passes over with the subject the several digits or the alphabet, and
notes at which the tell-tale tremor or mark of excitement occurs,
and so again performs the feat on the basis of the involuntary
contractions that express the slight changes of attention or interest
when the correct number or letter is indicated. In much the same
way we unwittingly betray our feelings and emotions, our interest or
distraction or ennui; the correct interpretation of these in others
and their suppression in one's self form part of the artificial
complexity of social intercourse. But in the line of experimental
demonstration also, another form of involuntary movement has been
brought forward in recent years by the investigation of Hansen and
Lehmann upon "involuntary whispering." This investigation brings
out the fact that many of us, when we think intently of a number,
tend to innervate the mechanism appropriate to its utterance. We do
not actually speak or whisper the word or sound, but we initiate
the process. If one person thinks of a number,--say from one to
ten, or from one to one hundred,--and the other records any number
which at the same moment suggests itself to him, it may result that
the proportion of correct or partially correct guesses exceeds that
which chance would produce; and arguments for telepathy have been
based on such results. In the series of experiments in question these
"involuntary whisperings" were not severely suppressed,--much as in
the automatograph tests one might determine to let the glass move if
it would. It must be understood that there was no true whispering
nor any movement of the speaking mechanism which a bystander could
detect; and yet it seems likely that the one participant was
influenced in his guessing by the vague but yet real, subconscious,
embryonic articulation of the other. The proof of this lies mainly
in the analysis of the successes and errors; for the confusions are
strikingly between numerals of somewhat similar sound,--as between
fourteen and forty, or sixty and thirty, or six and seven. If the
two persons are seated in the respective foci of two concave surfaces
which collect the sound (thus in a measure paralleling the exalted
sensibility of specially gifted or hypnotized subjects), the chances
of success seem to be increased. While the investigation is both
complex and incomplete, yet the general trend of it is sufficiently
clear to make it probable that "involuntary whispering" serves more
or less frequently as a subconscious and involuntary indication
of thought. It shows again that below the threshold of conscious
acquisition and intentional expression lie a considerable range of
activities, which though they blossom unseen do not quite waste their
fragrance, but come wafted over in vague and subtle essence. The
falling of a drop of water is unheard, but the sound of the roaring
torrent is but the sound of myriads of drops. The boundary between
the conscious and the unconscious is broad and indefinite; and vague
influences, if not direct messages, pass from one side to the other.

The general bearing of the study of involuntary movements I
have indicated at the outset; and no elaborate comment on the
practical significance of the results described seems necessary.
They certainly facilitate the appreciation of the reality of the
subconscious and the involuntary; and in connection with explanations
of muscle-reading or telepathy, they illustrate how naturally a
neglect of this realm of psychological activity may lead to false
conclusions. They bring a striking corroboration of the view that
thought is but more or less successfully suppressed action, and as a
well-known muscle-reader expresses it, all willing is either pushing
or pulling.



Man is predominantly a visual animal. To him seeing is believing,--a
saying which in canine parlance might readily become smelling is
believing. We teach by illustrations, models, and object-lessons,
and reduce complex relations to the curves of the graphic method,
to bring home and impress our statements. Our every-day language,
as well as the imagery of poetry, abounds in metaphors and similes
appealing to images which the eye has taught us to appreciate.
The eye is also the medium of impressions of æsthetic as well as
of intellectual value; and one grand division of art is lost to
those who cannot see. The eye, too, forms the centre of emotional
expression, and reveals to our fellow-men the subtile variations in
mood and passion, as it is to the physician a delicate index of our
well-being. There are reasons for believing that it was the function
of sight as a distance-sense that led to its supremacy in the lives
of our primitive ancestors. Whatever its origin, the growth of
civilization has served to develop this eye-mindedness of the race,
and to increase and diversify the modes of its cultivation.

The eye, thus constantly stimulated in waking life, and attracting to
its sensations the focus of attention, possessing, as it does, in the
retinal fovea a special and unique aid to concentrative attention,
does not yield up its supremacy in the world of dreams. The visual
centres subside but slowly from their day's stimulation; and the rich
stock of images which these centres have stored up is completely at
the service of the fancy that guides our dreams. Indeed, the dream
itself is spoken of as a vision.

Though, as a race, we are eye-minded, individually we differ much
with regard to the rôle that sight plays in our psychic life. In
one direction a good index of its importance is to be found in the
perfection of the visualizing faculty, of which Mr. Galton has given
an interesting account. He asked various persons to describe, amongst
other things, the vividness of their mental picture when calling to
mind the morning's breakfast-table. To some the mental scene was
as clear and as natural as reality, lacking none of the details of
form or color; to others the resulting mental image was tolerably
distinct, with the conspicuous features well brought out, but the
rest dim and ill-defined; while a third group could only piece
together a very vague, fragmentary, and unreliable series of images,
with no distinct or constant picture.

Similar differences are observable with regard to memories. Some
persons firmly retain what they read, while the memory forte of
others is in what they hear; and pathology supports this subdivision
of the sense-memories by showing, for example, that all remembrance
for seen objects may be lost while that for sounds remains intact. A
case, remarkable in several aspects, is recorded by M. Charcot. The
subject in question could accurately call up, in full detail, all
the scenes of his many travels, could repeat pages of his favorite
authors from the mental picture of the printed page, and by the same
means could mentally add long columns of numbers. The mere mention of
a scene in a play, or of a conversation with a friend, immediately
brought up a vivid picture of the entire circumstance. Through
nervous prostration he lost this visual memory. An attempt to sketch
a familiar scene now resulted in a childish scrawl; he remembered
little of his correspondence, forgot the appearance of his wife and
friends, and even failed to recognize his own image in a mirror. Yet
his eyesight was intact and his intellect unimpaired. In order to
remember things he had now to have them read aloud to him, and thus
bring into play his undisturbed auditory centre--to him an almost new

The function of vision in dreams is doubtless subject to similar
individual variations, though probably to a less extent. Seeing,
with rare exceptions, constitutes the typical operation in dreams;
it is this sense, too, that, under the influence of drugs or of
other excitement, is most readily stimulated into morbid action, and
most easily furnishes the basis of delusions and hallucinations to a
disordered mind. The dependence of the nature and content of dreams
upon the waking experiences is so clearly proven that it would be
surprising not to find in them the individual characteristics of our
mental processes; and if Aristotle is right in saying that in waking
life we all have a world in common but in dreams each has a world of
his own, we may look to the evidence of dream-life for indications of
unrestrained and distinctive psychological traits.


With regard to the blind, much of what has been said above is
entirely irrelevant. However intimately we appreciate the function
of sight in our own mental development, it is almost impossible to
imagine how different our life would have been had we never seen.
But here, at the outset, a fundamental distinction must be drawn
between those blind from birth or early infancy, and those who lose
their sight in youth or adult life.[13] "It is better to have seen
and lost one's sight than never to have seen at all," is quite
as true as the sentiment which this form of statement parodies.
Expressed physiologically, this means, that to have begun the general
brain-building process with the aid of the eye insures some further
self-development of the visual centre, and thus makes possible a
kind of mental possession of which those born blind are inevitably

A fact of prime importance regarding the development of the
sight-centre is the age at which its education is sufficiently
completed to enable it to continue its function without further
object-lessons on the part of the retina. If we accept as the test
of the independent existence of the sight-centre its automatic
excitation in dreams, the question can be answered by determining the
age of the onset of blindness, which divides those who do not from
those who still retain in their dream-life the images derived from
the world of sight. The data that enable me to answer this question
were gathered at the Institutions for the Blind in Philadelphia and
Baltimore. Nearly 200 persons of both sexes were personally examined,
and their answers to quite a long series of questions recorded. All
dates and ages were verified by the register of the institution, and
the degree of sight was tested.

Beginning with cases of _total_ blindness (including under this head
those upon whom light has simply a general subjective "heat-effect,"
enabling them to distinguish between night and day, between shade and
sunshine, but inducing little or no tendency to project the cause of
the sensation into the external world), I find on my list fifty-eight
such cases. Of these, thirty-two became blind before the completion
of their fifth year, and _not one_ of this group of thirty-two sees
in dreams. Six became blind between the fifth and the seventh year:
of these, four have dreams of seeing, but two of them do so seldom
and with some vagueness; while two never dream of seeing at all. Of
twenty persons who became blind after their seventh year _all_ have
"dream-vision"--as I shall term the faculty of seeing in dreams. _The
period from the fifth to the seventh year is thus indicated as the
critical one._ Before this age the visual centre is undergoing its
elementary education; its life is closely dependent upon the constant
food-supply of sensations; and when these are cut off by blindness,
it degenerates and decays. If blindness occurs between the fifth and
the seventh years, the preservation of the visualizing power depends
on the degree of development of the individual. If the faculty is
retained, it is neither stable nor pronounced. If sight is lost
after the seventh year, the sight-centre can, in spite of the loss,
maintain its function; and the dreams of such an individual may be
hardly distinguishable from those of a seeing person.

It was a very unexpected discovery, to find, after I had planned and
partly completed this investigation, that I had a predecessor. So
long ago as 1838, Dr. G. Heermann studied the dreams of the blind
with the view of determining this same question, the physiological
significance of which, however, was not then clearly understood.
He records the answers of fourteen totally blind persons who lost
their sight previous to their fifth year, and _none_ of these has
dream-vision. Of four who lost their sight between the fifth and
the seventh year, one has dream-vision; one has it dimly and
occasionally; and two do not definitely know. Of thirty-five who
became blind after their seventh year _all_ have dream-vision. The
two independent researches thus yield the very same conclusion. Dr.
Heermann includes in his list many aged persons, and from their
answers is able to conclude that, generally speaking, those who
become blind in mature life retain the power of dream-vision longer
than those who become blind nearer the critical age of five to seven
years. He records twelve cases where dream-vision still continues
after a blindness of from ten to fifteen years, four of from fifteen
to twenty years, four of from twenty to twenty-five years, and one
of thirty-five years. In one case dream-vision was maintained for
fifty-two, and in another for fifty-four years, but then faded

With regard to the _partially_ blind, the question most analogous to
the persistence of dream-vision after total blindness, is whether
or not the dream-vision is brighter and clearer than that of waking
life; whether the sight-centre maintains the full normal power
to which it was educated, or whether the partial loss of sight
has essentially altered and replaced it. To this rather difficult
question I have fewer and less satisfactory answers than to the
former inquiry; but the evidence is perfectly in accord with the
previous conclusions. Of twenty-three who describe their dream-vision
as _only as clear_ as waking sight, _all_ became blind _not
later_ than the close of their _fifth year_; while of twenty-four
whose dream-vision is more or less markedly _clearer_ than their
partial sight, _all_ lost their full sight _not earlier_ than
their _sixth year_.[16] The age that marks off those to whom total
blindness carries with it the loss of dream-vision from those whose
dream-vision continues, is thus the age at which the sight-centre has
reached a sufficient stage of development to enable it to maintain
its full function, when partially or totally deprived of retinal
stimulation. The same age is also assigned by some authorities as the
limiting age at which deafness will cause muteness (unless special
pains be taken to prevent it); while later the vocal organs, though
trained to action by the ear, can perform their duties without
the teacher's aid. This, too, is assigned as the earliest age at
which we have a remembrance of ourselves. This last statement I am
able to test by one hundred answers, collected among these blind
persons, to the question, "What is your earliest remembrance of
yourself?" The average age to which these memories go back is 5.2
years; seventy-nine instances being included between the third and
the sixth years. At this period of child development--the centre of
which is at about the close of the fifth year--there seems to be a
general declaration of independence of the sense-centres from their
food-supply of sensations. Mr. Sully finds sense, imagination, and
abstraction to be the order in which the precocity of great men
reveals itself; and the critical period which we are now considering
seems to mark the point at which imagination and abstraction as
permanent mental powers ordinarily come into play. M. Perez likewise
recognizes the distinctive character of this era of childhood by
making the second part of his "Child Psychology" embrace the period
from the third to the seventh year.


The general fact thus brought to light--that the mode in which a
brain-centre will function depends so largely upon its initial
education, but that, this education once completed, the centre can
maintain its function, though deprived of sense-stimulation--is
sufficiently important to merit further illustration.[17] This
fact, though very clear and evident when stated from a modern point
of view, has not always been recognized. So ingenious a thinker as
Erasmus Darwin inferred from two cases (the one of a blind man, the
other of a deaf-mute) in which the wanting senses were also absent
in dreams, that the peripheral sense-organ was necessary for all
perception, subjective as well as objective; and entirely neglected
the age at which the sense was lost. Such noted physiologists as
Reil, Rudolphi, Hartman, Wardrop (who says, "when an organ of sense
is totally destroyed, the ideas which were received by that organ
seem to perish along with it as well as the power of perception"),
more or less distinctly favored this view; while some teachers of
the blind and the physiologists Nasse and Autentreith rightly drew
the distinction between those born, and those who became, blind.
An experimental demonstration of the original dependence of the
perceptive and emotional powers upon sense-impressions was furnished
by Boffi and Schiff, who found that young dogs whose olfactory bulbs
had been removed failed to develop any affection for man.

What is true of the visual, is doubtless equally true of the other
perceptive centres. The dreams of the deaf-mute offer an attractive
and untouched field for such study.[18] The few accounts of such
dreams that I have met with, fail to give the age at which deafness
set in; in one case, however, in which deafness occurred at thirty
years, the pantomimic had replaced the spoken language in the dreams
of thirty years later. Similarly, cripples dream of their lost limbs
for many years after their loss; in such cases, however, stimulation
of the cut nerves may be the suggestive cause of such dreams. A man
of forty, who lost his right arm seventeen years before, still dreams
of having the arm. The earliest age of losing and dreaming about a
lost limb, of which I find a record, is of a boy of thirteen years
who lost a leg at the age of ten; this boy still dreams of walking
on his feet. Those who are born cripples must necessarily have their
defects represented in their dream consciousness. Heermann cites the
case of a man born without hands, forearms, feet, or lower legs. He
always dreamt of walking on his knees; and all the peculiarities of
his movements were present in his dream-life.

The dreams of those both blind and deaf are especially instructive.
Many of Laura Bridgman's dreams have been recorded; and an
unpublished manuscript by Dr. G. Stanley Hall places at my service
a valuable account of her sleep and dreams. Sight and hearing were
as absent from her dreams as they were from the dark and silent
world which alone she knew. The tactual-motor sensations, by which
she communicated with her fellow-beings, and through which almost
all her intellectual food reached her, also formed her mainstay in
dreams. This accounts for the suddenness and fright with which she
often waked from her dreams; she is perchance dreaming of an animal,
which to us would first make itself seen or heard, but to her is
present only when it touches and startles her--for she lacks any
anticipatory sense. Language has become so all-important a factor
in civilized life, that it naturally is frequently represented in
dreams. We not only dream of speaking and being spoken to, but we
actually innervate the appropriate muscles and talk in our sleep;
this Laura Bridgman also did. "Her sleep seemed almost never
undisturbed by dreams. Again and again she would suddenly talk a few
words or letters with her fingers, too rapidly and too imperfectly
to be intelligible (just as other people utter incoherent words
and inarticulate sounds in sleep), but apparently never making a
sentence."[19] So, too, all the people who enter into her dreams
talk with their fingers. This habit had already presented itself at
the age of twelve, four years after her first lesson in the alphabet.
"I do not dream to talk with mouth; I dream to talk with fingers." No
prettier illustration could be given of the way in which her fancy
built upon her real experiences, than the fact recorded by Charles
Dickens, that on picking up her doll he found across its eyes a green
band such as she herself wore. The organic sensations originating
in the viscera, though often prominently represented in dreams of
normal persons, seemed especially prominent in her dreams. She tells
of feeling her blood rush about, and of her heart beating fast when
suddenly waking, much frightened, from a distressing dream. One
such dream she describes as "hard, heavy, and thick;" terms which,
though to us glaringly inappropriate in reference to so fairy-like a
structure as a dream, form an accurate description in the language of
her own realistic senses. In short, her dreams are accurately modeled
upon the experiences of her waking life, reproducing in detail
all the peculiarities of thought and action which a very special
education had impressed upon her curious mind.

I have had the opportunity of questioning a blind and deaf young
man whose life-history offers a striking contrast to that of Laura
Bridgman, and illustrates with all the force of an experimental
demonstration the critical educational importance of the early years
of life. He was, at the time of my questioning him, twenty-three
years of age, and was earning a comfortable living as a broom-maker.
He had an active interest in the affairs of the world, and disliked
to be considered in any way peculiar. His eyesight began to fail him
in early childhood; and in his fifth year the sight of one eye was
entirely lost, while that of the other was very poor. After a less
gradual loss of hearing, he became completely deaf in his ninth
year. At the age of twelve he was (practically) totally blind, deaf,
and nearly mute. The small remnant of articulating power has been
cultivated; and those who are accustomed to it can understand his
spoken language. He also communicates as Laura Bridgman did, and has
a further advantage over her in possessing a very acute sense of
smell. He remembers the world of sight and hearing perfectly, and in
a little sketch of his life which he wrote for me vividly describes
the sights and sounds of his play-days. He usually dreams of seeing
and hearing, though the experiences of his present existence also
enter into his dreams. Some of his dreams relate to flowers which he
smelled and saw; he dreamt of being upset in a boat; shortly after
his confirmation he dreamt of seeing God. When he dreams of making
brooms, his dream is entirely in terms of motion and feeling, not
of sight. His history thus strongly emphasizes the importance which
a variety of evidence attributes to the period of childhood, and
perhaps especially to that from the third to the seventh year.

The remarkable powers which Helen Keller has exhibited throughout her
phenomenal education give to an account of her dream life an especial
interest. I am fortunate in being able to present her own account
as she prepared it at my solicitation. The wealth and brilliancy of
her imagination frequently lead to modes of expression which seem to
brusquely contradict her sightless and soundless condition. But a
careful observation of her mental activities brings out the verbal or
literary character of such allusions, in certain cases essentially
aided by associations with impressions of the senses that remain to
her. In such cases her familiarity, through literature and through
intercourse, with the experiences of the hearing and seeing and with
the emotional and intellectual associations that ordinary persons
might have with definite scenes or occasions, enables her to realize,
and her vivid imagination to construct, a somewhat idealized account
of her vicarious experiences, though perhaps real emotions. Her dream
life seems in complete concordance with her waking condition; but
this imaginative factor must be constantly borne in mind in reading
her report of her dream life. The intrinsic interest of this human
document, and the charm of the narrative, present so lifelike and
almost confidential a portrayal of her world of dreams, that any
elaborate comment would be unnecessary. It should be remembered that
Helen Keller became totally blind and deaf at nineteen months; that
her instruction began at the age of seven years; that she learned
to speak orally from her eleventh year; that at present she speaks
orally almost exclusively, although very proficient in the use of
the finger alphabet; that she is able to understand what is said to
her by placing her fingers upon the lips and throat of the speaker,
but that the more expeditious and certain mode of communicating with
her is by making the letters of the finger-alphabet in the palm of
her hand. This latter method she uses entirely with her teacher and
with all who are conversant with it. This account of her dreams was
prepared in August, 1900, when she was twenty years of age; it was
written off-hand by her on a type-writer, and is presented in its
original form.


"It is no exaggeration to say that I live two distinct lives,--one in
the everyday world and the other in the Land of Nod! Like most people
I generally forget my dreams as soon as I wake up in the morning; but
I know that when I dream I am just as active and as much interested
in everything--trees, books and events--as when I am awake.

"My dreams have strangely changed during the past twelve years.
Before and after my teacher first came to me, they were devoid of
sound, or thought or emotion of any kind, except fear, and only came
in the form of sensations. I would often dream that I ran into a
still, dark room, and that, while I stood there, I felt something
fall heavily without any noise, causing the floor to shake up and
down violently; and each time I woke up with a jump. As I learned
more and more about the objects around me, this strange dream ceased
to haunt me; but I was in a high state of excitement and received
impressions very easily. It is not strange then that I dreamed at
that time of a wolf, which seemed to rush towards me and put his
cruel teeth deep into my body! I could not speak (the fact was, I
could only spell with my fingers), and I tried to scream; but no
sound escaped from my lips. It is very likely that I had heard the
story of Red Riding Hood, and was deeply impressed by it. This dream,
however, passed away in time, and I began to dream of objects outside
of myself.

"I never spelled with my fingers in my sleep; but I have often
spoken, and one night I actually laughed. I was dreaming of a great
frolic with my schoolmates at the Perkins Institution. But, if I
do not use the manual alphabet in my dreams, my friends sometimes
spell to me. Their sentences are always brief and vague. I obtain
information in a very curious manner, which it is difficult to
describe. My mind acts as a sort of mirror, in which faces and
landscapes are reflected, and thoughts, which throng unbidden in my
brain, describe the conversation and the events going on around me.

"I remember a beautiful and striking illustration of the peculiar
mode of communication I have just mentioned. One night I dreamed
that I was in a lovely mansion, all built of leaves and flowers. My
thoughts declared the floor was of green twigs, and the ceiling of
pink and white roses. The walls were of roses, pinks, hyacinths,
and many other flowers, loosely arranged so as to make the whole
structure wavy and graceful. Here and there I saw an opening between
the leaves, which admitted the purest air. I learned that the flowers
were imperishable, and with such a wonderful discovery thrilling my
spirit I awoke.

"I do not think I have seen or heard more than once in my sleep.
Then the sunlight flashed suddenly on my eyes, and I was so dazzled
I could not think or distinguish anything. When I looked up, some
one spelled hastily to me, 'Why, you are looking back upon your
babyhood!' As to the sound I heard, it was like the rushing of a
mighty cataract, and reminded me forcibly of my visit to Niagara
Falls. I remembered as if it were yesterday how I had come very close
to the water and felt the great roar by placing my hand on a soft
pillow. Now, however, I knew I was far away from the place whence
the sound came, and the vibration fell clear, though not loud, upon
my eardrums; so I concluded in my sleep that I really heard. What
happened next I have entirely forgotten; but in the morning I was
deeply impressed by the only instance in which I had dreamed of
hearing, and I wished I could go back to Dreamland, just to hear that
far-off, inspiring sound.

"Occasionally I think I am reading with my fingers, either Braille or
line print, and even translating a little Latin, but always with an
odd feeling that I am touching forbidden fruit. Somehow I feel that
the spirits of sleep are displeased if any thoughts of literature
cross my mind. Still I am free to enjoy everything else--I can wander
among flowers and trees and be with my friends, especially those who
live at a distance from where I happen to be. Sometimes I am with
my mother, and at other times with my sister Mildred. My teacher
scarcely ever appears in my dreams; but I know she would very often
if a cruel fate should tear her away from me. I shall never forget
the morning seven or eight years ago, when I dreamed that my dear
friend, Bishop Brooks, was dying. A few hours later I found that my
dream was a terrible reality. It is probable that I thought of him
at the very moment when he was passing away, and I certainly wept in
the same manner and in the same place while I dreamed, that I did

"I hardly ever dream of anything that has happened the day before,
although I sometimes have several different dreams on the same night;
nor do I dream of the same things often. However, I dream oftenest
of the unpleasant and horrible, no matter how happy and successful
the day may have been. Indeed, I have found it unadvisable to read
terrible stories or tragedies often, or in the evening. They impress
me so painfully, and retain so firm a hold of my imagination that
they sooner or later force themselves into my dreams. About two years
ago I read 'Sixty Years a Queen' the story of the awful massacre
at Cawnpore, which took place during the Indian Mutiny. It filled
me with a horror that haunted me persistently for several days. At
last I managed to banish these disagreeable feelings; but one night
a frightful distortion of the selfsame story appeared before my
mind. I thought I was in a small prison. At first I only noticed a
skeleton hanging up on one of the walls; then I felt a strange, awful
sound, like heavy iron being cast down, and the most heartrending
cries ensued. I was informed that twenty men were being put to death
with the utmost cruelty. I rushed madly from one room to another,
and, as each ruffian came out, I locked the door behind him, in the
hope that some of the victims might thereby be saved. All my efforts
were futile, and I awoke with a sickening horror weighing down on
my heart. I have also fancied that I saw cities on fire, and brave,
innocent men dragged to a fiery martyrdom. One instant I would
stand in speechless bewilderment, as the flames leaped up, dark and
glaring, into a black sky. The next moment I would be in the midst of
the conflagration, trying to save some of the sufferers, and seeing
in dismay how they slipped away beyond my power. At such times I have
thought myself the most wretched person in the world; but in the
morning the bright sunshine and fresh air of our own dear, beautiful
world would chase away those horrible phantoms.

"On the whole, my dreams are consistent with my feelings and
sympathies; but once I thought I was engaged in a great boat-race
between Yale and Harvard. Now, in reality I am always on Harvard's
side in the great games; but at that time I dreamed that I was a
thorough Yale man! Perhaps this inconsistency arose from the fact
that a long time ago I had declared how glad I was of Harvard's
failure to win a certain boat-race, because the Yale men rowed with
the American stroke and the Harvard men had learned the English
stroke. At any rate, sleeping or waking, I love my friends, and never
think they change or grow unkind. From time to time I make friends
in my dreams; but usually I am too busy running around and watching
other people to have any long conversations or 'reveries.'

"I am often led into pretty fantasies, of which I will give an
illustration. Consternation was spread everywhere because the news
had been received of King Winter's determination to establish his
rule permanently in the temperate zones. The stern monarch fulfilled
his threat all too soon; for, although it was mid-summer, yet the
whole ocean was suddenly frozen, and all the boats and steamers
were stuck fast in the ice. Commerce was ruined, and starvation was
unavoidable. The flowers and trees shared in the universal sorrow,
and bravely strove to keep alive through the summer. Finally,
overcome by the intense cold, they dropped their leaves and
blossoms, which they had kept fresh and spotless to the last. Slowly
the flowers fluttered down and lay at King Winter's feet, silently
supplicating him to show mercy, but all in vain. They froze unheeded,
and were changed into pearls, diamonds, and turquoises.

"Another time I took it into my head to climb to the stars. I sprang
up into the air, and was borne upward by a strong impulse. I could
not see or hear; but my mind was my guide as well as my interpreter.
Higher and higher I rose, until I was very close to the stars. Their
intense light prevented me from coming any nearer; so I hung on
invisible wings, fascinated by the rolling spheres and the constant
play of light and shadow, which my thoughts reflected. All at once
I lost my balance, I knew not how, and down, down I rushed through
empty space, till I struck violently against a tree, and my body sank
to the ground. The shock waked me up, and for a moment I thought all
my bones were broken to atoms.

"I have said all that I can remember concerning my dreams; but what
really surprises me is this; sometimes, in the midst of a nightmare,
I am conscious of a desire to wake up, and I make a vigorous effort
to break the spell. Something seems to hold my senses tightly, and it
is only with a spasmodic movement that I can open my eyes. Even then
I feel, or I think I feel, a rapid motion shaking my bed and a sound
of light, swift footsteps. It seems strange to me that I should make
such an effort to wake up, instead of doing it automatically."

This faithful and dramatic sketch is replete with specific as
well as with generic corroborations of the distinctive results of
the present inquiry. The differences between the dream experiences
of Helen Keller before and after education are quite consistent
with comparable results in the cases of other defectives--although
dreams of her uneducated period seem to occur rarely if at all, and
it is not possible to determine how soon after she began to speak,
such speech-communication made its appearance in her dreams. It is
interesting to note that oral speech, when once acquired, speedily
superseded manual talking, and that automatic talking aloud in her
sleep appeared; the finger alphabet became almost obsolete in her
waking life, and likewise in her dreams. Yet the persistence of early
acquired habits is strikingly shown in her occasional unconscious
tendency to talk to herself by forming the letters with one hand
against the palm of the other. These processes she seems to utilize
quite automatically and unconsciously as aids to composition or to
"thinking aloud."

In regard to the source and content of her dreams, the more realistic
episodes reflect their perceptional origin in tactile and motor
experiences; such are the attack of the wolf, the fall from a
height, the reception of information through the palm, reading the
raised print,--while dreams of flying naturally present the same
elaboration of sensory elements as in normally equipped individuals.
The dreams of seeing and hearing probably reflect far more of
conceptual interpretation and imaginative inference than of true
sensation; yet they are in part built up upon a sensory basis,--in
the former case, that of the heat sensations radiating from a
brilliant illumination (witness the flames of the conflagration,
the "intense light" of the stars), in the latter of vibrational or
jarring sensations communicated to the body (as in the torrent of
Niagara). But, on the whole, the direct sensory tone of her dream
life is weak; while for this very reason, possibly, the imaginative
and "transferred" components are unusually dominant. The associative
elaboration of fancies in dream life is rarely capable of simple
analysis, and commonly reveals results, and not the processes or
stages by which the results were reached. Dependent, as Helen Keller
is so largely, upon the communication of others for her knowledge
of what is going on about her, it is natural that this transferred
communication should be important in her dream knowledge. That her
consciousness of the process of such acquisition should be vague
and difficult to express is natural; and the phrases "my thoughts
declared," "my mind acts as a sort of mirror," "I was informed,"
are as satisfactory psychologically as could be expected. It is,
however, in dreams not of external incidents involving vaguely
transferred or directly communicated information, but in the free
roamings of creative imagination, that the dream life of Helen Keller
finds its most suitable _métier_; it is in this direction that this
dream narrative, reflecting, as it does, her rich emotional nature
and enthusiastically sympathetic temperament, presents its most
distinctive and attractive aspect.


Returning to the general data regarding the dreams of the blind, the
question that next suggests itself is whether and how, in cases
where blindness ensued after a remembered period of vision, the
pre-blindness period is distinguished from the post-blindness period
in dream-imagery. It was noticed, for instance, that the blind and
deaf young man mentioned above, though seeing in his dreams, never
thus saw the shop in which he worked. It is easy to imagine that the
more or less sudden loss of sight, the immersion into a strange and
dark world, would for a time leave the individual living entirely
upon the past. His remembered experiences are richer and more vivid
(we are supposing his blindness to occur after childhood) than those
he now has; he is learning a new language and translates everything
back into the old. His dreams will naturally continue to be those of
his seeing life. As his experiences in his new surroundings increase,
and the memory of the old begins to fade, the tendency of recent
impressions to arise in the automatism of dreaming will bring the
events of the post-blindness period as factors into his dreams. I
find in my list only seven who do not have such dreams; and in these
the blindness has been on the average of only 2.8 years standing.
The average age of "blinding" of the seven is fifteen years, making
it probable that the adaptation to the new environment has here been
a slow one, and that such dreams will occur later on. On the other
hand, cases occur in which, after three, two, or even one year's
blindness, when the persons so afflicted were young, events happening
within that period have been dreamed of. Heermann cites a case of a
man of seventy who never dreamed of the hospital in which he had been
living for eighteen years, and to which he was brought shortly after
his blindness. This and other cases suggest that the more mature and
settled the brain-tissue, the more difficult is it to impress upon
it new conditions sufficiently deeply to have them appear in the
automatic life of dreams.

Whether there is a difference in the vividness, or any other
characteristic which sight would lend, in the dreams of events before
and after blindness, is a question to which I could obtain few
intelligent and satisfactory answers; but, as far as they go, the
tendency of these replies is to show that when blindness ensues close
upon the critical period of five to seven years of age, the power
of vivid dream-vision is more exclusively limited to the events of
the years of full sight; and, as Heermann pointed out, this power is
often subject to a comparatively early decay. Similarly, I find that
those who lose their sight near the critical age are not nearly so
apt to retain color in their dream-vision as those who become blind
later on. The average age of "blinding" of twenty-four persons who
have colored dream-vision, is 16.6 years, including one case in which
blindness set in as early as the seventh year. All who see enough to
see color, have colored dream-vision.

I also asked those who became blind in youth, or later, whether they
were in the habit of giving imaginary faces to the persons they
met after their blindness, and whether they ever saw such in their
dreams. Some answered in very vague terms, but several undoubtedly
make good use of this power, probably somewhat on the same basis as
we imagine the appearance of eminent men of whom we have read or
heard, but whose features we have never seen. When we remember how
erroneous such impressions often are, we can understand how easily
it may mislead the blind. Such imaginary faces and scenes also
enter into their dreams, but to a less extent than into those of
the sighted. Dr. Kitto[20] quotes a letter from a musician who lost
his sight when eighteen years old, but who retains a very strong
visualizing power both in waking life and in dreams. The mention of
a famous man, of a friend, or of a scene, always carries with it a
visual picture, complete and vivid. Moreover, these images of his
friends are reported to change as the friends grow old; and he feels
himself intellectually in no way different from the seeing.

This leads naturally to the consideration of the power of the
imagination in the blind. It is not difficult to understand that
they are deprived of one powerful means of cultivating this faculty,
that the eye is in one sense the organ of the ideal. Their knowledge
is more realistic and tangible, and so their dreams often, though
by no means always, lack all poetical characteristics, and are very
commonplace. Ghosts, elves, fairies, monsters, and all the host of
strange romance that commonly people dreams, are not nearly so well
represented as in the dreams of the sighted. What is almost typical
in the dreams of the latter is unusual in the dreams of the blind,
especially of those early blind. Many observe that such dreams grow
rare as they outgrow their youth,[21] which is probably true of the
sighted. When the blind dream of ghosts they either hear them, and
that usually not until they are close at hand, or they are actually
touched by them. A blind man, describing a dream in which his friend
appeared to him, said: "Then I dreamt that he tried to frighten me,
and make believe he was a ghost, by _pushing me down sideways_," etc.
By some the ghost is heard only; it has a rough voice, and its bones
rattle; or it pursues the victim, humming and groaning as it runs.

Contrary to the opinions of some writers, I find hearing, and not the
group of tactual-motor sensations, to be the chief sense with the
blind, both in waking and in dreams. That hearing owes very much of
this supremacy to its being the vehicle of conversation, goes without
saying. Many of the blind dream almost exclusively in this sense, and
it is quite generally spoken of as the most important. Even those
who see a little, often regard hearing as their most useful sense;
those who see well enough to see color, almost invariably claim for
their partial sight an importance exceeding that of hearing. Next in
importance to hearing is the group of sensations accompanying motion.
An important item in the dreams of the sighted is furnished by this
complex of sensations, and the same is true of the blind; almost
all remember such dreams, and some make this their most important
avenue of sensation. Yet such a purely artificial movement as reading
the raised type with the finger almost never occurs in dreams. The
boys dream of playing, running, jumping, and so on; the men of
broom-making, piano-tuning, teaching, and similar work; the girls of
sewing, fancy work, household work, and the like.

There is often ascribed to the blind a somewhat mystical sense, by
which they can tell the presence and even the nature of objects,
and can feel their way. As far as such a power exists, it depends
upon a complex group of sensations, and includes the cultivation
of the irradiation sense, which we all possess. It is not at all
difficult to tell whether a large object is within a few inches of
the hand, by the fact that it modifies the air currents and heat
radiations reaching the hand. This is especially the case if the
temperature of the object be somewhat different from that of the
room, or if it be an object like metal, which rapidly exchanges
its heat. In sunlight the shadows of stones and posts can be thus
detected; and the illumination of a room, both as to its source and
extent, can be judged. This sense the blind carefully, though often
unconsciously, cultivate, and I have heard it spoken of by them as
"facial perception," because the face seems to be most sensitive to
this kind of change. Many mention that the power fails them under the
influence of a headache or similar nervousness. The question whether
the position of a door, whether opened or closed, could be told at a
distance was variously answered; about half testified that they could
do so mainly by the aid of this facial perception. This enters in a
vague way into their dreams, but seldom plays an important rôle.

The stories attributing to the blind rather wonderful notions of
color have, on careful examination, been readily explained by natural
means; the use of words referring to color is often merely verbal
(of this both Laura Bridgman and Helen Keller furnish many excellent
examples), while the knowledge of the colors of special objects is
obtained by inference, based upon texture, appropriateness, and
similar characteristics. The analogies between color and sound
have been frequently described within recent years. Mr. Galton has
recorded many cases in which the sounds of the vowels, of words, of
musical notes, and the like, immediately summon to the mental eye an
appropriate color, often with a peculiar outline and shading. One
person could actually read sounds out of a wall-paper pattern, or
write the sounds in the name _Francis Galton_ in colors. It seemed
possible that the blind might obtain or receive some dim notions of
color by a similar process; and Dr. Kitto and the blind teacher,
Friedrich Scherer, mention that such is the case, though to a very
slight extent. The latter calls musical instruments the bridge across
which color comes to him. (He became blind when two years old.) The
flute is his symbol of green, the swelling organ tones of blue. The
trumpet is red, the hunter's horn dark green and violet, a general
confusion of tones is gray, while pink and crimson are associated
with the feeling of velvet. In my list occurs the record of a young
man twenty years old, and blind for three years. He saw colors on
hearing certain sounds soon after his blindness, and claims that he
is thus able to keep alive his notions of color. To him an alto voice
is gray; a soprano, white; a tenor, yellow; a bass, black. My own
voice suggested a dark background. A few words are also colored to
him; the sound of _Smith_ seems yellow. These analogies, however, are
fanciful and rare. They belong to a region of mental phenomena, of
great complexity, in which associations and idiosyncracies have free
play, and seem as little capable of definite explanation as much of
the stuff that dreams are made of.

A brief selection of instances from the collection of dreams and
parts of dreams which these blind people have put at my command,
may serve to reinforce the several factors of the dream-life of the
blind which have been commented upon. Many of the dreams present
no special differentiation from those of the seeing, but the most
carefully recorded ones usually reveal some traces of a defective or
peculiar apperception. A blind boy with more than usual imagination
dreamed that he was in a battle in which Alexander the Great put
the Gauls to flight; he heard the thunder of the cannon, but saw no
flash. A young man dreamed that his mother was dead; this he knew
by the cold touch of her body. He next heard the chanting of the
Mass at her funeral. This young man at times improvises airs in his
dreams. A partially-sighted girl dreams repeatedly of a wide river,
and is afraid of being dashed across it, while anxious to secure the
flowers on the opposite bank, which she dimly sees. A boy dreamed of
being picked up by some mysterious agency, and then suddenly allowed
to fall from a tremendous height. Here he awoke, and found his head
at the foot of the bed. Another dreamed of the Judgment Day, mainly
in terms of hearing. He was drawn to heaven by a rope, clinging to
a pole used for exercising; he heard the trumpets sounding, and the
voices singing, and so on. One dreamed that he was on a steamboat
which suddenly sank, whereupon he quietly walked ashore. Another,
that his father saw some wild people in the water, and swam out and
rescued them; another, of a large conflagration, of which he saw
nothing, but was constantly receiving reports from the bystanders.
A girl dreamed that she was sent by her aunt to get a loaf of bread
from the cellar, and was cautioned not to step too far down in the
cellar, because there was water there; upon arriving at the dangerous
place she stood still, and called for her aunt. Another dreamed of
chivalry, as the result of reading "Ivanhoe;" another of visiting
Lincoln and being much impressed with the strangeness of the place;
another of her examination in physics--she placed a piece of glass
on her finger, and showed its centre of gravity, when the glass fell
and broke with a crash; on another occasion she dreamed that she was
sick, went to the doctor, and recovered her full sight, and things
looked strange and unfamiliar when compared with the knowledge she
had derived from touch.


The study of the dreams of the blind thus emphasizes many points
of interest in the nature and development of the cortical centres
of the human brain; it graphically illustrates the explanatory
power of the modern view of their functions; and it presents in a
new aspect certain characteristics of their constitution. It shows
beyond a question that the power of apperceiving sight-images is
in no true sense innate, but is the product of slow development
and long training. That the same holds true of other centres is
proved by a mass of evidence gathered from many quarters; with
regard to the motor centres, it is even experimentally determined
by the observation that stimulation of the central convolutions of
the brains of puppies fails to excite the appropriate movements
of the legs, unless the puppies are already nine or ten days old.
These facts will be utilized in the formulation of an important
developmental law applicable alike to physiological and to
psychological processes.

The "critical period," revealed by the above research, must not be
understood as marking the point at which the visual centre begins its
life; this indeed occurs at a much earlier age, and this centre from
the outset and continuously increases in complexity and stability.
Nor was the statement made that there was no difference here
relevant, between the loss of vision at different ages before the
critical period. That a child who has seen up to the fourth, or the
third, or even the second year of life, probably retains some traces
of visualizing not attainable by those who attended the school of
vision for a shorter time or not at all, is believed on evidence of
a general, but not as yet of a specific nature. Among other facts it
is indicated by the influence of the age of blinding on the future
development of noted blind persons. Similarly, after the critical
period, the same processes of growth and assimilation continue, as
is evidenced by the vague character and comparatively early decay of
the dream-vision of those becoming blind close upon the end of the
seventh year. The more time spent in gathering in the provisions,
the longer do they hold out. The significance of the critical period
lies in its demonstrating a point in the growth of the higher
sense-centres, at which a divorce from sense-impression is no longer
followed by a loss of their psychical meaning; a point at which
imagination and abstraction find a sufficiently extended and firmly
knit collection of experiences to enable them to build up and keep
alive their important functions; a point where the scholar dispenses
with the object-lesson and lives off his capital; a point at which
the scaffolding may be torn down and the edifice will stand.

The indication of such a period in the development of the human
mind brings clearly into view the dependence of the higher mental
processes upon the basis furnished them by the experiences of
sensation; it strongly suggests a rational order and proportion
in the training of the several faculties of the child's mind; and
finally, it prevents the formation and survival of false notions, by
substituting certain definite though incomplete knowledge for much
indefinite though very systematic speculation.


[13] A noted blind teacher of the blind says: "Wenn wir ... den
Einfluss der Blindheit auf die geistige Thätigkeit des Blinden
beobachten, so haben wir Blindgeborene und Blindgewordene ... streng
auseinander zu halten."

[14] This applies mainly to intellectual acquirements. The
emotional life of those who have lost their sight is often, and
with much truth, regarded as sadder and more dreary than that of
the congenitally blind; the former regretfully appreciate what they
have lost; the latter live in a different and more meagre world, but
have never known any other. It is interesting in this connection to
trace the influence of the age of "blinding" (_sit venia verbo_) on
the mental development of eminent blind men and women. Of a list
of 125 blind persons of very various degrees of talent, which I
have been able to collect, the age of blinding was (approximately)
ascertainable in 114 cases. Of these about 11 are really very
distinguished, and 10 of them (the exception is the wonderful
mathematician, Nicholas Saunderson) became blind either in advanced
youth, middle life, or still later; of the group next in eminence
(about 25) the average age of the onset of blindness is in early
youth (at nine or ten years); and those earliest blind are generally
musicians, who least of all require sight for their calling. The
average age of blinding of the rest of the list--whose achievements
would for the most part not have been recorded had they not been
those of blind persons--is as low as seven years, while that of the
musicians (about 15 in the group) is little over three years. All
this speaks strongly for the permanent intellectual importance of
sight in early education.

[15] Dr. Heermann's observations also enable us to trace the
anatomical conditions underlying the power of dream-vision. From ten
cases in which post-mortem examinations were held, he concludes that,
allowing for much individual difference, after about twenty years
the optic nerves degenerate, and often as far back as the chiasma.
This shows that the nerve is not necessary for dream-vision, and thus
goes to prove that the process is dependent on cerebral organs--a
valuable piece of evidence fifty years ago. Esquirol records a case
of sight-hallucinations in a blind woman, again indicating the same

[16] A further interesting question regarding the dream-vision of the
partially blind is, How much must they be able to see in order to
dream of seeing? In answering this question, the blind give the name
"seeing" to what is really a complex of sensations and judgments, and
this same complex may enter into their dreams. Cases occur in which
there is only the slightest remnant of sight, and yet this forms a
factor in dream-life. It is a very imperfect kind of vision, and
acts more as a general sense of illumination, and as an anticipatory
sense. Generally speaking, those who know color have more frequent
and brighter dream-vision than those who distinguish light and
shade only. For example, of those partially blind from birth, such
as see color tolerably well (there are sixteen such) have regular
dream-vision--of course, no clearer than their best days of sight. Of
eleven who have some faint notion of color, three have dream-vision
regularly; six have it rarely, while two (almost never or) never have
it. Of eleven who can see no color at all, ten have no dream-vision,
and one has it occasionally.

[17] That even a comparatively slight disturbance of vision,
affecting only a small portion of the visual experience, can leave
a permanent trace upon the sight-centre is made very probable by a
case (recorded by Dr. McCosh, _Cognitive Powers_, p. 106) of a young
man whose defect consisted in his seeing everything double,--a defect
which a subsequent operation removed. "If I attempt," he writes,
"to recall scenes that I saw while my eyes were out of order, I
invariably see them as they appeared during that time, although I
may have seen them many times since the operation. For instance, in
the case of the minister in the pulpit at home, I see two images of
him, no matter how much I may try to get rid of one of them.... My
recollection of the office in which the operation was performed,
as also of everything in it, is double, although I saw it only
twice before the restoration of my sight, and many times after. The
objects which I have seen since the operation are always single when

[18] I have gathered considerable data in regard to the dreams of the
deaf, but they are not ready for definite formulation.

[19] From Dr. Hall's manuscript. Dr. Hall had the opportunity of
observing her during three short naps, and has incorporated a part
of his manuscript into a paper on Laura Bridgman, republished in
his _Aspects of German Culture_, pp. 268-270. From this manuscript
I take the following illustrations of her dreams, and her method of
describing them. They are recorded verbatim.

"_Question._ 'Do you dream often?' _Answer._ 'Very often, many
things.' _Q._ 'Did you think hard yesterday to remember dreams for
me?' _A._ 'I did try, but I always forget very soon.' _Q._ 'Did you
ever dream to hear?' [Her idiom for 'that you could hear.'] _A._
'Only the angels playing in heaven.' _Q._ 'How did it sound?' _A._
'Very beautiful.' _Q._ 'Like what?' _A._ 'Nothing.' _Q._ 'Was it
loud?' _A._ 'Yes, very.' _Q._ 'What instrument?' _A._ 'Piano.' _Q._
'How did the angels look?' _A._ 'Beautiful.' _Q._ 'Had they wings?'
_A._ 'I could not know.' _Q._ 'Were they men or women?' _A._ 'Don't
know.' _Q._ 'Can you describe their dress?' _A._ 'No.' _Q._ 'Was
the music fast or slow?' _A._ 'I cannot tell.' On another occasion
she was asked, 'Did you ever dream to see?' _A._ 'I could see the
sun.' _Q._ 'How did it look?' _A._ 'Glorious.' _Q._ 'What color?'
_A._ 'I cannot tell' [with a sign of great impatience]. _Q._ 'Was
it very bright?' _A._ 'Yes.' _Q._ 'Did it hurt your eyes?' _A._
'Yes, they ached.' _Q._ 'What was it like?' _A._ 'Nothing. I saw it
with my eyes' [much excited, breathing hard and fast, and pointing
to her right eye]. Some days later, after some promptings from her
attendants, she renewed the subject of her own accord, as follows:
'I remember once a dream. I was in a very large place. It was very
glorious and full of people. My father and mother were standing by.
The glorious piano was playing. When I heard the music I raised up
my hand so' [standing and pointing impressively upward and forward
with the index finger, as the letter g is made in the deaf and dumb
alphabet] 'to my heavenly Father. I tried to say God.' _Q._ 'With
your fingers?' _A._ 'Yes.' _Q._ 'Where was God?' _A._ 'So' [pointing
as before]. _Q._ 'Far away?' _A._ 'No.' _Q._ 'Could you touch him?'
_A._ 'No.' _Q._ 'How did you know he was there?' _A._ 'I cannot
tell.' _Q._ 'How did you know it was God?' _A._ 'I cannot explain.'
_Q._ 'What was he like?' _A._ [After a pause] 'I cannot tell
everything to everybody' [half playfully, whipping her right hand
with her left, and touching her forehead significantly, to indicate
that she was unable adequately to express what was in her mind]. _Q._
'Could he touch you?' _A._ 'No. He is a spirit.' _Q._ 'Did he see
you?' _A._ 'He sees everything. See how melancholy I look because I
do not feel interested.' On another occasion she said, 'I often dream
that Doctor Howe is alive and very sick,' but no details could be
elicited. Again, after imitating the gait of different people, she
said, 'I dream often of people walking. I dream many things, but do
not remember what I really dream. I used to dream of animals running
around the room, and it woke me.'"

It is evident that her dreams of hearing and seeing were either
merely verbal, or the substitution and elaboration of kindred
sensations (sense of jar and heat) which she experienced. For further
examples of her dreams see her _Life and Education_, by Mrs. Lamson,
pp. 88, 154, 166-168, 218, 223, 224, 226, 286, 290, 303, 304.

[20] _The Lost Senses_, by John Kitto. Dr. Kitto draws an ingenious
inference from the sonnet addressed by Milton to his deceased
(second) wife, whom he married after the onset of his blindness. From
the lines, "I trust to have | Full sight of her in Heav'n without
restraint," and "The face was veiled, yet to my fancied sight," etc.,
he argues that the poet was unable to imagine the face of his wife,
which he had never really seen, and so saw the face veiled; but hoped
in the future world to have "full sight of her without restraint."

[21] I have evidence to indicate that among the blind (as probably
amongst persons at large) women dream more extensively than men, that
is, they have more "frequent" and fewer "occasional" dreamers than
men. The period from five to nine years is richer in dreams than the
period from ten to fourteen years, and from then on a slight decrease
with age occurs. It is to childhood, the period of lively imagination
and of a highly tinged emotional life (and to women, who present
these characteristics more prominently than men), that dream-life
brings its richest harvest.


      Alchemy, 18, 171;
        problems of, 19;
        modern forms of, 20;
        type of occultism represented by, 20.

      Analogy, as applied in pseudo-science, 23, 43, 44, 267, 268;
        as a logical process, 237, 267, 272;
        the natural history view of, 236 sqq., 271;
        as characteristic of primitive thought-habits, 239, 241, 247;
        in children, 251;
        see also, Metaphor, Myth, Numbers, Superstition, Symbolism,

      Animal Magnetism; see Mesmer.

      Apperception, illustrated by diagrams, 283-295.

      Astrology, 18, 171, 266-269;
        interest in, 23;
        logic underlying, 23.

      Attention, misdirection of, 121, 124;
        expectant, 294.

      Automatic writing, 333.

      Automatograph, 309.

      Beard, Dr. G. M., 229.

      Belief, fixation of, 40, 104, 105;
        occult, see Occult;
        psychology of, 38, 60.

      Bernheim, ----, 230.

      Bertrand, ----, 201.

      Besant, Mrs., 10.

      Binet, ----, 157.

      Blavatsky, Mme., 7, 8, 9, 10.

      Blindness, 340;
        total, 341;
        partial, 343, 344;
        in dream-life, 361-363, 367, 368;
        age of onset and dream-vision, 341-344, 369, 370;
        and the imagination, 363, 364;
        and special sensibilities, 365-367.

      Braid, James, 205;
        his early observations, 206, 207;
        his historical position, 207, 208;
        his method, 207;
        his theories, 209, 211;
        his relation to phrenology, 209, 210;
        his later writings, 211;
        detection of unconscious suggestion, 211, 212;
        his status, 213.

      Brand, ----, 241.

      Bridgman, Laura, 366;
        dreams of, 347-350.

      Census Office, 301.

      Charcot, J. M., 69, 228, 338.

      Christian Science, 26, 44;
        origin of, 27;
        principles of, 27-30, 31, 32;
        text-book of, 28;
        extravagance of, 30, 31, 32;
        antagonism to science, 33.

      Clairvoyance, 14, 223, 226;
        see Puységur.

      Clocquet, ----, 214.

      Clodd, Edward, 241, 242, 244, 245, 248, 265, 272.

      Coincidences, 81, 83, 88, 90;
        and chance, 84, 97.

      Color, association with sound, 366, 367.

      Conjuring; see Deceptions, conjuring.

      Contagion, mental, 132-134.

      Darlingism, 224.

      Darwin, Erasmus, 346.

      Davey, ----; see Hodgson and Davey.

      Deafness, in relation to dreams, 347.

      Deception, as dependent upon objective conditions, 109;
        as dependent upon habit, 111;
        love of, 111;
        historical aspect of, 112;
        conjuring, 113, 114-117, 120-128;
        as imitation of reality, 116-118;
        as dependent upon subjective conditions, 118, 120-128;
        and technical knowledge, 13, 128, 148;
        analysis of, 129;
        as influenced by contagion, 132-134;
        liability to, 150;
        see also Illusion.

      Deleuze, J. P. F., 217.

      Deslon, 183, 184.

      Dickens, Charles, 350.

      Digby, Sir Kenelm, 261.

      Dorman, ----, 240, 246, 249.

      Drawings, equivocal, 286-295.

      Dreams, sensory factors in, 364, 365;
        of the blind; see Blindness; see Omens.

      Dupotet, ----, 202, 224.

      Dyer, ----, 256, 258, 264.

      Eccentric opinions, 2.

      Eddy, Mary Baker Glover, 27.

      Electro-biology, 219.

      Englinton, ----, 146.

      Esdaile, ----, 215.

      Faria, Abbé, 200;
        his use of suggestion, 201.

      Folk-medicine, 260, 265.

      Fox, Margaret and Katie, 138.

      Frazer, ----, 254.

      Furness, Horace Howard, 142-144, 158, 163.

      Galton, Francis, 338, 366.

      Gassner, Johann Joseph, 179, 180.

      Greaterick or Greatrakes, Valentine, 176-178, 180.

      Gregory, William, 222.

      Hall, G. Stanley, 347, 348.

      Hallucinations, 71.

      Hansen, ----, 229.

      Heermann, Dr. G., 342, 343.

      Hodgson, Richard, 8, 147, 150;
        and Davey, 129, 149, 151-157.

      Hollerith, ----, 301.

      Houdin, Robert, 121, 122.

      Husson, ----, 202.

      Hypnotism, 67, 171;
        history of, 172 sqq., 203, 227, 231-235;
        before the Academies, 202-205;
        extravagances of, 214, 217-227;
        as applied to medicine, 202, 204, 214;
        lessons of, 231-235.

      Hypothesis, its logical status, 100, 101.

      Illusion, 109, 110;
        optical, 282, 284;
        of ambiguous outlines, 286 sqq.;
        see also Deception.

      Images, their use in magic, 244.

      Inertia, mental, 296, 297-300.

      Interest, as creating coincidences, 88-92;
        as influencing perception, 119;
        in Psychical Research, 56-58, 63, 65.

      Involuntary Movements, 307;
        illustrations of, 312-321;
        influence of bodily position upon, 322-330;
        analysis of, 322-330;
        varieties of, 334;
        effects of object of attention upon, 331-333;
        see also Subconscious.

      Involuntary whispering, 335, 336.

      James, William, 39, 41, 43.

      Kellar, Harry, 122, 140, 150.

      Keller, Helen, 366;
        her account of her dream-life, 353-358;
        her mental traits, 351, 352, 359, 360.

      Kitto, John, 363, 366.

      Knerr, Dr., 141, 142, 145.

      Lang, Andrew, 14, 21, 66, 166, 176.

      Le Bon, ----, 134.

      Lewis, Prof. Carvill, 146.

      Liebault, A. A., 216.

      Logic, as applied to the occult, 3, 13, 19, 23, 30, 31, 39;
        logicality and rationality, 45.

      Lubbock, Sir J., 242, 252.

      Magic, 242, 257, 265;
        sympathetic, 240, 241, 246, 254, 261-263, 273;
        correspondences in, 266;
        see also Images, Names, Numbers.

      Mahatma, 8, 10.

      Martineau, Harriet, 221, 222.

      McCosh, Dr., 346.

      Medicine; see Folk-medicine; see also Superstition.

      Mental Community, 80-83.

      Mental Telegraphy; see Telepathy.

      Mesmer, Friedrich Anton, 14, 25, 36, 43, 180;
        his theories, 181, 189;
        his practices, 181, 190, 191;
        his Parisian career, 182-189;
        the commission to examine, 185-187, 192, 193;
        his attitude, 187;
        caricatures of, 188;
        his status in regard to Hypnotism, 191, 192.

      Metaphor, in relation to analogy, 248, 264, 270.

      Mind, its influence over body, 26, 37, 38;
        mortal, 28, 29.

      Mind-reading; see Muscle-reading.

      Miracles; see Supernatural.

      Muscle-reading, 308, 324.

      Myth, in relation to analogy, 270.

      Names, their use in Magic, 243-245, 257.

      Nancy, School of, 230.

      Numbers, in Magic, 258;
        in relation to analogy, 259.

      Observation, defects of, 87, 153-155.

      Occult, nature of, 3;
        motives that incline to the, 4, 39, 40, 43;
        conditions that favor the, 5, 57;
        persistence of, 46;
        antidote to the, 46.

      Occult Healing, 25, 26, 33, 34;
        varieties of, 34, 35;
        by absent treatment, 36;
        extravagances of, 35, 37.

      Od, 225.

      Omens, 243, 253;
        by contraries, 250;
        in dreams, 255-257.

      Oudet, Dr. ----, 204, 215.

      Palmistry, 18;
        interest in, 23;
        logic underlying, 23.

      Perception, 106, 108, 110;
        as determined by interest, 119;
        and expectation, 120.

      Personal interpretation of events, 17, 40-42, 56, 84.

      Pétetin, ----, 197, 198;
        his transposition of the senses, 199.

      Phrenology, 18, 171;
        interest in, 23;
        logic underlying, 23.

      Physiognomy, 18.

      Podmore, Frank, 10, 162, 164, 167.

      Prepossession, 44, 120, 126, 127, 130, 131, 151, 162-166, 296,
        a noteworthy illustration of, 301-304.

      Pseudo-science, 5, 20, 21, 24;
        temper of, 22;
        practical aspect of, 18, 21, 25;
        varieties of, 35.

      Psychical Research, the programme of, 50;
        the trend of, 51, 62, 75-77;
        interests contributing to, 56-58, 63, 65, 66;
        the problems of, 67;
        relation to Psychology, see Psychology.

      Psychology, scope of, 51;
        relation to Psychical Research, 52-56, 58-61, 64, 65, 76;
        difficulties in teaching, 298.

      Puységur, Marquis A. M. J. Chastenet de, 194;
        his discovery of somnambulism, 194, 195;
        his views and status, 196, 197.

      Quackery, 25.

      Reichenbach, Baron, 225.

      Rydberg, ----, 266, 267.

      Salpêtrière, 202, 228, 231.

      Scherer, ----, 366.

      Science, the spirit of, 48;
        the nature of, 49;
        and error of, 69.

      Sensation, and perception, 106, 107.

      Seybert Commission, 140, 141, 158.

      Sidgwick, Mrs., 141, 157.

      Sight; see Vision.

      Signatures, doctrine of, 264.

      Sinnett, A. P., 10, 11.

      Slade, Henry, 139, 140, 141.

      Somnambulism, artificial, 197, 198.

      Spiritualism, 12, 27, 44, 125;
        manifestations of, 13, 128, 131;
        origin of, 14, 15, 137, 166, 167;
        doctrines of, 15, 161, 165;
        present status of, 16, 18, 169;
        fraud disclosed in, 140, 141, 142-145, 146, 157, 159.

      Spiritualists, temper of, 16, 17.

      Statistics, in relation to mental problems, 84-86.

      Subconscious, 70, 79, 92, 108, 128, 129, 308.

      Suggestion, 230;
        unconscious, 68, 174, 186, 199, 211, 233.

      Sully, James, 111, 345.

      Supernatural, divergence between report and fact, 153, 155, 158;
       conflict with science, 174.

      Superstition, 252, 254, 258;
        in relation to analogy, 253;
        in medicine, 259.

      Survivals, 240, 248, 269, 274.

      Symbolism, in relation to analogy, 248, 249, 270.

      Sympathy; see Magic, sympathetic.

      Telepathy, 72, 73, 78;
        logical status of, 74;
        evidence for, 96-98, 103;
        validity as an hypothesis, 99;
        inclination toward, 104.

      Theosophy, 7, 27;
        Mr. Hodgson's investigation of, 8, 9;
        alleged miracles of, 9, 10;
        doctrines of, 11, 12.

      Thought-habits, in children and savages, 251, 271, 272.

      Triplett, Norman, 117, 123.

      Tylor, ----, 167, 240, 242, 250, 253, 256, 267, 270, 273.

      Tyndall, ----, 135.

      Unconsciousness of defects, 79, 80;
        see also Subconscious.

      Unknown, attitude toward the, 49.

      Unusual, in relation to analogy, 250, 260.

      Vision, its nature, 276, 337;
        subjective and objective, 276;
        subjective factor in, 277, 279, 280, 283, 288-295;
        interpretation in, 285, 286-295;
        education of the visual centre, 341, 345-347, 369, 370;
        its function in dreams, 339.

      Visualizing power, 338.

      Zöllner, ----, 139.

                The Riverside Press
  _Electrotyped and printed by H. O. Houghton & Co._
             _Cambridge, Mass., U. S. A._

       *       *       *       *       *

Transcriber's Note:

Obvious typographical errors were repaired, but period spellings and
hyphenation inconsistencies were retained.

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