Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 2.djvu/39

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27
EPIDEMIC DELUSIONS.

greater aptitude for looking at things as they are, and for not allowing strange, absurd notions to take possession of the mind; while, again, I can trace, even within the last ten years, in a most remarkable manner, the prevalence of a desire to do right things for the right's sake, and not merely because they are politic. And I am quite sure that there is a gradual progress in this respect, which has a most important influence in checking aberrations of the class of which I have spoken.

Still we see these aberrations, and there is one just now which is exciting a good deal of attention—that which you have heard of under the name of "Spiritualism." Now, I look upon the root of this spiritualism to lie in that which is a very natural, and in some respects a wholesome disposition of the kind—a desire to connect ourselves in thought with those whom we have loved and who are gone from us. Nothing is more admirable, more beautiful, in our nature than this longing for the continuance of intercourse with those whom we have loved on earth. It has been felt in all nations and at all times, and we all of us experience it in regard to those to whom we have been most especially attached. But this manifestation of it is one which those who experience this feeling in its greatest purity and its greatest intensity feel to be absurd and contrary to common-sense that the spirits of their departed friends should come and rap upon tables and make chairs dance in the air, and indicate their presence in grotesque methods of this kind. The most curious part of it is that the spirits should obey the directions of the persons with whom they profess to be in communication—that when they say, "Rap once if you mean yes, and rap twice if you mean no," and so on, they should just follow any orders they receive as to the mode in which they will telegraph replies to their questions. It seems to me repugnant to one's common-sense; but the higher manifestations of these spiritual agencies seem to me far more repugnant to common-sense; and that is when persons profess to be able to set all the laws of Nature at defiance; when it is said, for instance, that a human being is lifted bodily up into the air and carried, it may be, two or three miles, and descends through the ceiling of a room. One of the recent statements of this kind, you know, is that a certain very stout and heavy lady was carried a distance of about two miles from her own house, and dropped plump down upon the table round which eleven persons were sitting; she came down through the ceiling, they could not state how, because they were sitting in the dark, and that darkness has a good deal to do with most of these manifestations. Now, let us analyze them a little. I am speaking now of what I will call the genuine phenomena—those which happen to persons who really are honest in their belief. I exclude altogether, and put aside the cases, of which I have seen numbers, in which there is the most transparent trickery, and in which the only wonder is, that any rational persons should allow themselves to be deceived by it.