Occultism and Common-Sense

Occultism and Common-Sense


Occultism and Common-Sense By Beckles Willson

Format: Scanned PDF

Pages (PDF): 328

Illustrations: No

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Pages (PDF): 328

Illustrations: No

About The Book: Chapters include: Science's Attitude towards the "Supernatural"; The Hypnotic State; Phantasms of the Living; Dreams; Hallucinations; Phantasms of the Dead; On "Hauntings" and Kindred Phenomena; The Dowsing or Divining Rod; Mediumistic Phenomena; More Physical Phenomena; The Materialisation of "Ghosts"; Spirit-Photography; Clairvoyance; and, Mrs Piper's Trance Utterances.


When I first ventured into the wide and misty domain of Occultism, with a light heart I set forth and an open mind. My sole aim was to ascertain, as far as the means at the disposal of an ordinary man with little of the mystic in his composition would allow, what degree of probability attached to published phenomena, which the ordinary laws of Nature, as most of us understand them, could not satisfactorily explain.

At the threshold of my inquiry, one prominent and, as it seemed to me, disconcerting fact confronted me—namely, that although for a couple of generations " supernatural " manifestations had been promiscuously exhibited before the public, challenging full investigation and inviting belief; although almost every day the newspapers report some striking case of spirit apparition or materialisation, coincident dreams, clairvoyance, trance utterances, or possession, often seemingly well attested ; yet in spite of all this testimony academic science continued to dispute the very basis of such phenomena. Any investigator must needs recognise here a very anomalous situation. On the one hand are, let us say, half-a-million people, often highly intelligent, cultured, sane people, firmly protesting that they have witnessed certain astonishing occult manifestations, and on the other hand the Royal Society and the British Association, and other organised scientific bodies established for the investigation of truth, absolutely refusing to admit such evidence or to regard it seriously. Forty years ago Faraday, besought to give his opinion, in this wise wrote : " They who say they see these things are not competent witnesses of facts. It would be condescension on my part to pay any more attention to them." Faraday's attitude was that of Huxley, Spencer, Tyndall, and Agassiz. The first-named, however, rather gave away his prejudice by saying: "Supposing the phenomena to be genuine, they do not interest me." Tyndali's utterance also deserves to be recalled : " There are people amongst us who, it is alleged, can produce effects before which the discoveries of Newton pale. There are men of science who would sell all that they have, and give the proceeds to the poor, for a glimpse of phenomena which are mere trifles to the spiritualist." He added : " The world will have religion of some kind, even though it should fly for it to the intellectual whoredom of spiritualism." Spencer's words w^ere : " I have settled the question in my own mind on a priori grounds." Professor Carpenter called spiritualism "a most mischievous epidemic delusion, comparable to the witchcraft delusion of the seventeenth century."

What, then, has happened to strengthen the case of the believers in ghosts, clairvoyance, thought-transference, sensory automatism, in, say, the last quarter of a century? What new evidence exists which would make the mid - Victorian scientific men reconsider their position ? Suppose Faraday and Huxley, Spencer and Tyndall, were alive to-day, would they see reason to alter their opinions ?

I remember once—and I now give it as typical—overhearing a psychical experience. It was in a first-class compartment on a train coming from Wimbledon. One of my fellowpassengers, an intelligent, well-spoken man of about thirty-five, was relating to three friends the following extraordinary story.

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