Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 11.djvu/185

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173
MESMERISM, ODYLISM, TABLE-TURNING, ETC.

experience we are continually encountering in other walks of life, that particular persons are guided, some apparently by an original and others by an acquired intuition, to conclusions for which they can give no adequate reasons, but which subsequent events prove to have been correct; and I look upon the divining-rod in its various applications as only a peculiar method of giving expression to results worked out by an automatic process of this kind, even before they rise to distinct mental consciousness. Various other methods of divination that seem to be practised in perfectly good faith—such, for example, as the Bible and key test, used for the discovery of stolen property—are probably to be attributed to the same agency; the cerebral traces of past occurrences supplying materials for the automatic evolution of a result (as they unquestionably do in dreams) when the occurrences themselves have been forgotten.

Many of the cases of so-called thought-reading are clearly of the same kind; the communication being made by unconscious muscular action on the part of one person, and automatically interpreted by the other—as in the following instance: Several persons being assembled, one of them leaves the room, and during his[1] absence some object is hidden. On the absentee's reëntrance, two persons, who know the hiding-place, stand one on either side of him, and establish some personal contact with him; one method being for each to place a finger on his shoulder, and another for each to place a hand on his body, one on the front and the other on the back. He walks about the room between the two, and generally succeeds before long in finding the hidden object; being led toward it (as careful observation and experiment have fully proved) by the involuntary muscular action of his unconscious guides, one or the other of them pressing more heavily when the object is on his side, and the finder as involuntarily turning toward that side.

These and other curious results of recent inquiry, while strictly conformable to physiological principles, greatly extend our knowledge of the modes in which states of mind express themselves unconsciously and involuntarily in muscular action: and I dwell on them the more because they seem to me to afford the key (as I shall explain in my next lecture) to some of these phenomena of spiritualistic divination, which have been most perplexing to many who have come in contact with them, without being disposed to accept the spiritualistic interpretation of them.—Fraser's Magazine.

  1. The experiment succeeds equally well, or perhaps better, with ladies.