Popular Science Monthly/Volume 11/October 1877/The Psycho-Physiological Sciences
THERE has ever been, and probably for another century there will continue to be, an "irrepressible conflict" between those whose conceptions of Nature are limited by sensation—who recognize no existence but matter and motion, who trace all that exists to material causes alone—and a very different class of thinkers, who trace causation beyond matter, who discover causes that are not material (called spiritual), who believe that the Great First Cause (the Unknowable of materialists) is an infinite spiritual power or basis of all things, and who recognize in man also a spiritual power of which they are conscious, widely different from matter, partaking of the nature of the Divine, and, being a very positive entity—the greatest of all realities to us—destined, in accordance with the doctrine of the persistence of force, to a duration analogous to that of matter.
To the materialist, who finds in matter "the promise and potency" of all things, there is no higher object of reverence and love than the examples of men and women within his reach; there is no future life to compensate for the wrongs and sufferings of this, the triumph of fraud, or the unmerited agonies of disease and poverty; there is no apparent controlling purpose of benevolence or justice in the universe, but only a chance medley of strife, in which strong-handed selfishness is best rewarded, and when " man dies as the dog dies " the account is closed, and the self-imposed martyrdom of the loving hero appears a final loss and folly.
To the spiritualist, the universe has a deeper meaning, a nobler destiny. The wisdom of the Infinite, which is unutterably beyond his reach, is a consoling reality, and the little play upon this theatre, the life-struggle of threescore and ten years, is but the beginning, the gestation and birth of a career corresponding to our noblest aspirations and our faith in the Divine benevolence.
Man has such immeasurable powers of adaptation that a strong moral nature may exist under the gloomiest views of materialism (which naturally tend to the pessimism of Schopenhauer and Hartmann), and sustain itself by its constitutional energy and buoyancy; but there are millions to whom materialism teaches the daily lesson that to " put money in thy purse " is the chief aim of life, and to riot in sensual pleasure on ill-gotten gain, until the candle burns out, is the best wisdom.
The glow of hope, the removal of anxiety, the exaltation of happiness, the enlargement of sympathy and love, which thousands have experienced when they have passed from the dark nescience of materialism to the brilliant certainties of spiritualism, and learned the grandeur of human destiny—whether the change has been effected by emotional eloquence and historical argument in the bosom of the Church, or by scientific investigation and experimental inquiry in pneumatology, or by that direct perception of spiritual existence now enjoyed by a few (and destined to be enjoyed by all when the human race shall have attained maturity of development)—should satisfy any impartial thinker that the diffusion of spiritual knowledge is as noble and practical a form of philanthropy as a good man can labor for.
But, in laboring for these ennobling truths, he encounters a strong resistance in the animal nature of man, in the selfish and depressing character of our daily toils, and in the too great concentration of attention upon physical sciences, to the exclusion of those in which a psychic element is found. The study of physical science alone is no better preparation for psychic studies, which employ different faculties, than the study of the counting-house ledger or the supervision of a pork-house would be for the service of Parnassus.
A recent publication from Dr. Carpenter, embodying two lectures on psychic subjects (mesmerism, spiritualism, etc.), presents, in the most offensively exaggerated form, the pragmatic pretension of certain physical scientists to take charge of psychic investigations with an air of more than papal infallibility, and an emphatic notice to all the rest of mankind, not only that they are incapable of such investigations, but that their opinions, their testimony, and even their oaths are not entitled to claim a feather's weight before the self-created tribunal of which Dr. Carpenter is the authoritative mouth-piece.
The magniloquent insolence of such a proclamation would be amusing enough, even if Dr. Carpenter were, as he fancies himself, an expert of great skill; but when he is dealing with a subject of which he knows far less than thousands of the most enlightened people, far less than many men of science who are his peers in intelligence and his superiors in candor and in philosophic habits of thought, his insolent assumptions of superiority and denial of their claims to veracity and intelligence, whenever in conflict with his own theories, are all that his most unfriendly opponent could desire in order to demonstrate his utter unfitness for the task which he has assumed.
Passing by his ludicrous claims to a boundless superiority over contemporary scientists who do not follow his lead, we may ask whether he has any claims whatever to be recognized as an expert, whose opinions on these subjects have any especial value. Eminence as a physiologist does not imply eminence or capacity as a psychologist. It is true, physiology and psychology are coterminous sciences; but until recently their cultivators have kept as wide apart as the antipodes. Psychology has been prosecuted as if man never had a body (and ultra-psychologists do not admit that there is a human body or any other material existence whatever), while physiology has been cultivated in the same ultra spirit of nescience, as if man had no soul. So thoroughly does a feeble or a narrow mind, in fixing its attention on one object, lose sight of everything else. Dr. Carpenter himself has expressly excluded the soul from the pale of science, which is the next thing to excluding it from cognition, and one of the most recent voluminous and learned American works on physiology excludes it entirely, and substitutes the physical action of the brain, as follows: "The brain is not, strictly speaking, the organ of the mind, for this statement would imply that the mind exists as a force, independently of the brain; but the mind is produced by the brain-substance" (Flint's "Physiology of Man," Nervous System, p. 327). Thus physiologists generally regard mind as purely phenomenal—as something holding the same relation to the brain as music to the violin, when the violin plays itself. If the relations of the brain to paralysis or to digestion are under consideration, such physiologists may be recognized as experts; but when its relations to a soul of which they know nothing are under consideration, we may very properly say to them, "Ne sutor ultra crepidam."
Of course, materialists cannot deny that mental phenomena exist, but to them they are simply the phenomena of matter. Dr. Carpenter may even admit the existence of a soul beyond the pale of science—a quiddity as distinct from the real soul as Spencer's "Unknowable" is from any conception of a God. Practically speaking, Dr. Carpenter is entirely in harmony with other materialists.
Men of scientific culture, who have spent a considerable portion of their lives in practical investigation and familiarity with the facts of mesmerism, spiritualism, and other psycho-physiological sciences, are experts in the highest sense of that term, and can but smile at the insolence of those who, never having made a successful experiment on those joint operations of the soul and body which constitute mesmeric, spiritual, and other sciences, nevertheless claim, as Dr. Carpenter does, to be recognized as the oracle in matters of which his ignorance is both pitiable and ludicrous, having never, by his own confession, witnessed any of the innumerable facts demonstrating an extra-material agency, which, during the whole of the present century, have been accumulated and diffused in all civilized countries, and among their foremost thinkers. His position is precisely that of the principal Professor of Philosophy at Padua, who refused to look through Galileo's telescope, and continued to teach the old theories. Nay, far worse: he not only refuses to see what is open to all men, but, as Horkey wrote against Galileo, while refusing all fair investigation, and thus furnished an example to "point a moral" for posterity—an example of the power of "dominant ideas" in a bigot—Dr. Carpenter repeats the same performance amid the higher enlightenment of the present age, with a perversity and hostility of purpose which were never surpassed by the blind votaries of Aristotle. And as Horkey detected the trick in Galileo's telescope which made stars by reflected light. Dr. Carpenter too detects fallacies in the experiments of Prof. Crookes, whose temperate and candid reply places him in even a worse position than that of Martin Horkey. (See Nineteenth Century for July.)
In a question of the existence of certain facts, the honest witness who, without prepossession, investigates and follows up the facts wherever they are visible, is competent to instruct us; but he who carefully avoids coming into close contact with the facts, and, while maintaining his mind in undisturbed ignorance, feasts upon secondhand gossip and stale calumnies, which he retails with delight, is hardly entitled even to a nod of recognition among honest inquirers. When Home was in England, and gentlemen of unimpeachable veracity and superior intelligence saw him lifted from the floor by an entirely invisible power, why would not Dr. Carpenter witness such an occurrence? When Slade was in England, of whom gentlemen of intelligence say that when a pencil was placed between two clean slates fastened together, which were left in full view of spectators in broad daylight lying on the table, messages were written on the inside of the slates, of a highly intelligent and appropriate character, why did Dr. Carpenter, if he possessed the sentiments of honor and love of truth which mankind generally recognize as commendable, refuse to make the simple and brief investigation which would have determined in an hour whether his theories and his stale calumnies had any foundation or not?
The truth is, Dr. Carpenter and men of his character care mainly for their own personal infallibility: they seek only the vindication of their own theories, per fas et nefas, and do not approach an experimental test unless they are permitted to interfere and dictate some method of conducting experiments to hinder or delay their progress. But when a simple experiment is proposed which cannot be intermeddled with, and which is completely and forever decisive, such as the levitation of a table or a man to the ceiling, no one being in contact with the lifted object, or the production of writing upon the interior of two clean slates which the inquirer brings himself, firmly secured together, the pretentious dogmatist is very careful to keep out of reach, no matter how he may be importuned or challenged. He generally fortifies himself with a few contemptuous phrases and a determination to see nothing of the marvelous.
The public that employs and patronizes men of science has a right to expect from them fidelity to truth and vigilance in seeking it—not cunning in evading or skill in calumniating true discoveries, followed by contemptuous neglect when their claims have been demonstrated. Such is the course pursued by some toward all discoveries in which psychic powers are involved. There is a fossilized materialism in many minds, which has become a matter of blind feeling, utterly irrespective of facts or science, against which it is vain either to reason or to offer facts. In the last resort the skeptic declares, "I wouldn't believe it if I saw it myself."
Of this vicious state of feeling, producing an incapacity to reason correctly on certain subjects, we need no better example than Dr. Carpenter himself, as exhibited in this brochure of one hundred and fifty-eight pages, the substance of which may be condensed into four propositions:
1. History exhibits a great deal of folly, superstition, and ignorance, and a great many preposterous narratives of witchcraft and silly miracles, attested by many witnesses: therefore, in the present enlightened age, human testimony is of no value when it affirms anything out of the usual course of Nature (as observed by Dr. Carpenter), and the scientific testimony of Profs. Crookes and Wallace (reënforced by that of eminent men and women in Great Britain, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, and the United States, whose numbers and moral and intellectual capacity would outweigh any Royal Society or French Institute), is of no more value than the most fanciful mediæval legends of Catholic saints, which science does not condescend to notice.
2. Some individuals can be brought by a proper operator into a waking mesmeric condition of passive credulity and obedience to the voice: therefore we should believe everybody liable to this condition, and believe nothing that anybody tells us which is different from the usual course of Nature, as Dr. Carpenter understands it.
3. The usual course of Nature under our own observation—we beg pardon. Dr. Carpenter’s observation—is all of which Nature is capable, and no new laws or agencies which Dr. Carpenter does not know are to be expected or developed by investigation. Whoever asserts that any such laws or agencies exist, is to be regarded as a liar or a victim of hallucination; and, in fact, the chief phenomena of mesmerism and spiritualism have been discovered to be cheats.
4. Mesmer advanced certain preposterous and unscientific pretensions; certain mesmeric operators have made failures; and Dr. Carpenter affirms that he has several times failed to discover any clairvoyance in celebrated clairvoyants, and has detected some pretenders to clairvoyance as impostors: therefore, mesmerism is a delusion.
It is difficult to treat such a mass of absurdity and misstatement with the gravity and courtesy appropriate to scientific discussion. When a dogmatic adult insists on proving to us that the earth is entirely flat, he takes rank, as a first-class bore, with Dr. Carpenter; and the only method of disposing effectively of such nuisances is that adopted by Mr, Alfred R. Wallace—a heavy wager to be settled by actual measurement of a portion of the earth's surface. If Dr. Carpenter had courage enough to endure the wager-test, he too might receive his quietus from Mr. Wallace. But there is no hope of that; the large reward offered in England, to any one who will produce certain spiritual phenomena by physical means, will never be called for.
The first proposition may pass for what it is worth. If there are any who agree with Dr. Carpenter in his assumption that the superstitious tales of an ignorant age are as worthy of credence as the elaborate investigations of the most distinguished scientists—men whose testimony would be decisive in any court of justice where life was at stake—it is not worth while to reason with them. The assumption of Dr. Carpenter is slanderous against his distinguished scientific opponents; but its extreme silliness renders it entirely harmless to any but himself. The same argument would destroy the credibility of medical, surgical, and physiological works of to-day, because the medical records of former times contain much that is absurd and incredible.
The second proposition is but little better than the first. There is an unfortunate development of brain which makes or marks the constitutional and incurable bigot, to whom bigotry is philosophy. The Italian philosophers who denounced Galileo, and the French physicians who laughed at Harvey, were as unsuspicious of their own mental defects as Dr. Carpenter. Could anything but the blinding impulse of bigotry induce a man of great intelligence, age, and experience, to confound possibility with certainty in this ridiculous manner—to affirm that because certain individuals can be mesmerized in the American manner, wide awake, but passive creatures of the operator's voice, therefore we should consider all men liable to this condition, and treat all testimony that contravenes our opinions of the course of Nature as the testimony of helpless mesmeric subjects? By an exact parity of reasoning we may say certain individuals in every community have committed, or might commit, murder: therefore, whenever we find any one dead, and do not know how he died, we may assume that the men or women who were in his vicinity murdered him.
But suppose Dr. Carpenter should witness a case of levitation, and have the honesty to report what he saw, shall we then hold him to be either a mesmerized dupe or a confederate knave—which would he prefer to be called? Dr. Carpenter may be sincere, but he speaks quite reverentially of the Scriptures, although by his own declarations he must regard their miracles as shams which had never been exposed by a learned expert; and their spiritual phenomena, so analogous to those of the present day, as base impostures.
The third proposition, considered as a work of art, is an ingenious compound of evil, on which his satanic majesty might smile in grim approbation. Dr. Carpenter's language is as follows: "My contention is, that where apparent departures from them [the laws of Nature] take place through human instrumentality, we are justified in assuming in the first instance either fraudulent deception, or unintentional self-deception, or both combined—until the absence of either shall have been proved by every conceivable test that the sagacity of skeptical experts can devise."
As for himself, he affirms that he has "no other theory to support than that of the well-ascertained laws of Nature;" and further, that "it is quite legitimate for the inquirer to enter upon this study with that ' prepossession ' in favor of the ascertained and universally-admitted laws of Nature which believers in spiritualism make it a reproach against men of science that they entertain."
If this be a true and honest statement of the case, there is no case in court for discussion: Dr. Carpenter is a philosopher, and the spiritualists are hopeless fools. By what muddled process of thought he could bring himself to make such a statement, we need not inquire. There is not a scientific spiritualist who would not repudiate the statement as calumnious. If the laws of Nature can be violated, there is no absurdity or chimera which is not admissible; but, instead of believing this possible, spiritualists are the foremost of all men in insisting on the universal inviolability of all the laws of Nature, extending their infrangible power not only over all physical phenomena, but throughout the equally extensive psychic realm (in spite of all metaphysical speculations to the contrary)—an extension which Dr. Carpenter has not affirmed himself.
Dr. Carpenter presumes that liberal thinkers must be at war with the laws of Nature, because he thinks those laws incompatible with the new phenomena. The obfuscation of his mind is the same which has characterized narrow-minded bigots in all ages. The narrow-minded man cannot conceive two widely-different truths at once, and perceive their harmonies: he adopts one with zeal, and rejects the other firmly, because he thinks them incompatible. Narrow-minded men are of course bitter partisans, and the great majority of mankind from defective brains and irrational education see only one aspect of truth, and reject all others.
Dr. Carpenter sees no truth in mesmerism, and Baron Dupotet sees no reliable truth in medicine; Hahnemann rejected the entire accumulations of allopathy, and the old school indignantly rejected Hahnemann's discoveries as nonentities. A doctor who administers three grain pills will not tolerate homœopathic pellets; and he who has discovered that infinitesimals will cure is often equally intolerant of the three-grain pills: and so they call each other quacks and impostors, in the same spirit in which Dr. Carpenter assails those who see more of the truth than himself, and are equally interested in psychic and physical facts. How long shall it be before the "survival of the fittest," or the improvement of education, shall give us a generation with brains enough to entertain two ideas at once?
The difficulty of Dr. Carpenter and all other narrow-minded people lies in the poverty of their conceptions. They have no idea that it is possible for Nature to show her powers in any new way to which they are unaccustomed. Hence, the ascent of a balloon seemed miraculous to the ignorant peasants, who took it for the work of the devil; and the formation of a solid block of ice from water was a similar violation of Nature's laws to the Asiatic despot, who felt justified in treating the traveler as a liar who told him of it. Had Dr. Carpenter been his prime-minister, the traveler might have fared worse.
There is no better evidence of philosophic imbecility than a sentiment of the all-sufficiency of our present meagre knowledge of Nature. The proposition of Dr. Carpenter that all new, marvelous facts shall be treated as impossibilities, and the witnesses who, without any other motive than the love of truth, attest them at the expense of their own popularity, shall be treated as impostors (which means, made personally infamous and consigned to the mercies of antiquated laws), embodies all the impulses of stolid ignorance and malignity which have in past ages warred against science and innovation by prisons and by death penalties.
Every great discoverer introduces something to human knowledge different from the usual understanding of Nature, and is, therefore, by the Carpenterian rule, a fit subject for persecution. The rigorous application of this principle would check progress by a war upon the greatest benefactors of mankind—those who lead them into essentially new ideas of Nature. The rule is therefore thoroughly satanic in its moral aspect, while in its intellectual character it is thoroughly stolid, being a declaration of war against the increase of knowledge in certain directions forbidden by the bull of the materialistic pope.
Considered as an appeal to that great tribunal, the public, this little volume is an extraordinary piece of insolence—what would be called at any judicial tribunal a flagrant contempt of court, entitling the applicant to summary dismissal and punishment. Dr. Carpenter not only pronounces the public, to whom his book is an appeal, incompetent to decide, virtually telling every reader that he has no right to an opinion on what he has seen until Dr. Carpenter (or some one whom he recognizes as a colleague) has told him what to think; but he assumes, like a "border-ruffian," to expel every witness from court who testifies differently from himself. No matter how pure the character, or how lofty the intelligence, if they disagree with him they are falsifiers; but, as to all who agree, their testimony is valuable, no matter how contemptible its source.
It is pitiable to see a gentleman of Dr. Carpenter's standing reproducing the obsolete trash which public intelligence had buried in oblivion. The toe-joint and knee-joint theory of rappings was speedily exploded in America, and has scarcely been heard of for twenty years. Rappings have occurred in thousands of families, in spite of their incredulity, and compelled them to recognize an invisible power which acts sometimes with force sufficient to break furniture, and to be heard at considerable distances. As Dr. Carpenter manifests a remarkable ignorance of the progress and present status of spiritualism, it is probable he does not know that the joint-rapping certificate to which Mrs. Culver's name was attached was refuted immediately after its publication. The séances she describes never occurred at all, Catharine Fox being at that time seventy miles distant at Auburn. How unmanly, how much like a malignant village gossip, in Dr. Carpenter to dig up decomposed slanders, when the lady concerned, now Mrs. Jencken, was in London, and he might at any time have satisfied himself in an hour of the reality of true spirit-sounds and other phenomena!
Throughout his long career. Dr. Carpenter has kept himself willfully ignorant of mesmeric and spiritual facts, which are easier of access than almost any other scientific phenomena. He has reproduced the career of Horkey with remarkable fidelity. No sincere inquirer has ever failed, if he made proper efforts, to obtain evidence of an active intelligence which is not material. In my first interview with a medium, over twenty-five years ago, loud sounds—not raps, but sounds like the creaking of a wooden mill—were freely produced at request in a small uncovered table in our parlor, when no person was in contact with it or within three feet of it. On making careful examinations, the sounds appeared to be developed in the loose marble slab which constituted its top, and, by feeling the slab on both sides, I could locate the sound and vibration with great accuracy in its centre. When no one was touching the table, it was held down by the spirit-power, when requested, with a force which I estimated at twenty pounds in lifting it.
But it is entirely useless to mention any such facts to bigots of the Carpenter class, or to sustain them by any amount of testimony; for to them all testimony is worthless concerning anything outside of the limit which Dr. Carpenter has marked off with a grand Cardinal Richelieu flourish, as the impassable limit where inquiry must halt and vituperation begin.
Great is the power of the speculative scientific dogmatism which enabled Dr. Carpenter to show in his "Physiology" that one hundred pounds of starch would support the life of a savage as long as four hundred pounds of venison or other game (Chapter VII. Of Food and the Digestive Process), although it would be as difficult to convince the unscientific savage that such an opinion is preferable to experience as to convince Crookes, Wallace, Flammarion, Hare, or even Victor Hugo, that Dr. Carpenter's opinions are preferable to their own careful observations.
Worthless as this book seems as an argument, and amusing as it is to those at whom it is aimed, it has some power for mischief the 'power of a demoralizing example—the power of position and reputation in giving a quasi-respectability to that which is philosophically silly and ethically corrupt. The most demoralizing influence which proceeds from a thoroughly depraved society is the doctrine that all men are knaves or fools, to which Dr. Carpenter has given his active cooperation—saving only a few self-styled "experts" from this satanic maxim. His unfair example is corrupting to scientific literature. The vast amount of mesmeric facts, which could scarcely be summarized and classified in the limits of his book, has been carefully ignored, and his readers would not suspect their existence, if dependent on him for information. Yet, as he is such a stickler for the scientific qualifications of witnesses, why could he not even allude to the testimony of Prof. Agassiz, who ranks before the world at least as high as himself? Prof. Agassiz was thoroughly mesmerized by the Rev. C. H. Townshend, and his letter describing his sensations and condition during the process (February 22, 1839) is published in Townshend's "Facts in Mesmerism."
As the limits assigned this essay do not admit a complete review of this little book, it may now be dismissed, but not to oblivion, for it is destined to survive all other writings of Dr. Carpenter, and to be remembered as long as Horkey's letter against Galileo. Posterity will be amused to think that Whately's "historic Doubts" concerning the existence of Napoleon Bonaparte, written for amusement, were more than matched by Carpenter's doubts of the existence of any mesmeric or spiritual facts, written in all the earnestness of a dogmatic and infallible philosophizer. In the struggle between stubborn vituperative materialism and comprehensive science, the battle-ground is at the psycho-physiological junction of the two worlds. Man, belonging to both the spiritual and the material world, cannot be properly studied except as a psycho-physiological being, and those who refuse to do this simply ignore anthropology. The effort of ultra-bigoted materialists is to exclude all agencies not thoroughly material—all that is intermediate between the psychic and the physiological—to crush its students and teachers by personal or professional ostracism and accusations of lying knavery and hallucination. The malignity of the attacks is sufficient proof that they do not originate in the love of science or of truth, even if they were not often distinguished by mendacity, the mildest example of which is the late assertion of Dr. Forbes Winslow, of London, that "this form of delusion" (spiritualism) "is very prevalent in America, and the asylums contain many of its victims; nearly 10,000 persons having gone insane on the subject are confined in the public asylums of the United States." This is quite a fair example of the truthfulness of the majority of the statements on that side of the question. The fact is, however, that the published reports of our fifty-eight insane asylums show but 412 from religious excitement, which is less than two per cent, of the whole number, and but 59 from spiritualism, which is twenty-six hundredths of one per cent, of the whole number in these asylums (23,328).
Dr. Carpenter and the majority of physiologists prefer to cultivate physiology as a purely material science, and reduce man as nearly as possible to a chemical and dynamic apparatus. I have preferred to cultivate physiology in a more philosophic way, recognizing the eternal man who inhabits the body, as well as the transient physical form, and discovering a new class of facts which render our chemical and anatomical physiology far more philosophic and intelligible. What a blind groping in the dark rigidly materialistic physiology appears to one who has gained that full knowledge of our complex constitution which constitutes our anthropology! I do not mean by this that mesmerism and spiritualism combined with mechanical physiology constitute anthropology: far from it. Both mesmerism and spiritualism are rich but empirical collections of facts, in which there is a large amount of material, hut very little that can be called philosophy or satisfactory science.
Anthropology is established by investigating the centre of man's existence — the seat of his conscious life — the brain, in which the spiritual comes into contact with the physical, and is subject to analogous laws. In this theatre of their joint action both may be studied, and we may find that philosophy for which the world has so long been looking in vain, which shall comprehend the entire scope of human existence.
As one of these numerous psycho-physiological discoveries which are receiving daily confirmation from pathology, from autopsies, and from Dr. Ferrier's interesting experiments, I would very briefly allude to psychometry, a few experiments in which, if rightly conducted, would dissipate the entire fabric of physiological materialism. The discovery of psychometry and the introduction of the word by myself, thirty-four years ago, have made it quite familiar to liberal minds throughout the United States, and to some extent abroad.
The initial facts which I discovered in 1841, that all who have a high development of sensibility are capable of feeling the influence of any substance held in the hands, even to the extent of perceiving its taste as well as its medicinal effects, led to far more marvelous developments. The supposition of materialism has always been, that when medicines affect the body from contact with the exterior, an appreciable quantity of the substance must have been absorbed into the circulation. Against this theory I guarded by placing the medicines in an envelope of paper, which prevented contact with the cuticle, and concealed the nature of the substance from the knowledge of the subject of the experiment. In making such experiments I found that from twenty-five to thirty per cent, of the persons tried could realize distinct medicinal effects, corresponding to the nature of the medicine. In one of my collegiate classes of medical students (in 1849, some of whom have since occupied honorable public positions), the effects were distinctly recognized by forty-three, whose statement was published at the time. These effects would begin in the hand, ascend the arm to the head, and rapidly diffuse over the whole body.
If the materialist supposes that the substance passed through the dry paper to the dry hand, through its unbroken cuticle and up the arm, I would ask, How long would it take for twenty grains of tartar emetic or of quinine to be exhaled through the paper? I am not aware that such substances when dry are ever materially diminished in weight by being kept in dry paper.
Omitting other associated facts and philosophy for want of space, I pass on to the consummation, that persons who realize with facility these medical impressions can also realize psychic impressions of the most subtle character, in such a manner as to dissipate all doubt of the reality of this wonderful power. A manuscript from any source retains in itself a subtle psycho-physiological emanation characteristic of its writer; and an impressible person with a fair endowment of the psychometric faculty, to such an extent as we would find in perhaps one person in twenty, or, in some southern communities, one person in five, is capable of feeling the entire mental and physical influence of that person as perfectly as if in contact with himself, and describing the individual as he was at the time of writing—his entire mental and physical condition. When there is a high endowment of the psychometric faculty, the descriptions of characters made in this way are more subtly accurate than those from any other source, and the sympathetic impression of the physical condition is so vivid as to develop in the psychometer the pains and morbid conditions of the writer.
In the proper performance of the experiment, the psychometer is not allowed even to see the manuscript, which is used by placing it on the centre of his forehead; nor is he assisted by leading questions. It sometimes happens that, if the character described be one with which the psychometer is familiar, he will finally be able to recognize it, and tell the name of the writer by the identity of the character. For example, while writing this article yesterday, a lady, of considerable intellectual reputation and elevation of character, came in, whom I knew to possess fine psychometric powers. Thinking that I might make a suitable experiment upon her for the illustration of my subject, I selected one of my autographs, and requested her to give me an example of her powers. She knew not what autographs were in my possession, and was not allowed a view of the manuscript, which was placed on her forehead without being seen, and without the slightest hint or suspicion of its nature. In a few moments (holding it to her forehead by her finger) she manifested great mental excitement, and described a character of unusual grandeur and moral elevation. She felt like a great leader to whom multitudes were looking up—a man of commanding stature, of immovable firmness and strength of character, and the loftiest philanthropy. She could hardly refrain from rising up and striding over the floor, from intense excitement. After giving a forcible description of the character, she said she was sure it must be General Washington, as it corresponded to her knowledge of his character, with which she was quite familiar. I then took the paper from her forehead, to let her see this autograph, on which she had been pronouncing:
"To all to whom this writing shall come.
"I certifye, that William Morgan Esquire, commands a company of voluntoors in the service of the United States of America.
"Givon at Head Qrs. at Morristown this 25th day of Febry 1777.
Ever since my announcement of this discovery, in 1843, I have found it the most perfect agency ever devised for the investigation of character, and it has become well known throughout the United States. There are as many as a score of practitioners of psychometry who will send a written description of the character connected with any manuscripts sent them, and a number of physicians who, with great success, use their psychometric power for the diagnosis of the condition of patients at a distance.
But experiments and investigations would be entirely useless if Dr. Carpenter could succeed in his aim to build an impassable wall for the exclusion of all essentially novel truths, by denying the competency of scientific testimony to introduce new facts foreign to his own cramped conceptions of Nature.
To exclude the multitudinous facts of mesmerism, including the vast number of surgical operations and marvelous cures in which it has been employed by Dr. Esdaile, Dr. Elliotson, and hundreds of others of unquestionable character—to exclude the facts of spiritualism witnessed by millions, and to combine all the incompatible powers of medical and clerical bigotry now, as the Aristotelians and Romish priests combined against Galileo—is a task in which his success will hardly equal that of Lactantius in denouncing the wicked innovations which asserted the existence of the antipodes.