Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 2.djvu/46

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.

to study the facts may at once obtain the definite scientific rationale; and these things can all be openly produced and experimented upon, expounded and explained. There is not a single thing we are asked to believe of this kind, that cannot be publicly exhibited. For instance, in this town, last week, I saw a stream of molten iron coming out from a foundery; I did not see on this occasion—but the thing has been done over and over again—that a man has gone and held his naked hand in such a stream of molten iron, and has done it without the least injury; all that is required being, to have his hand moist, and if his hand is dry he has merely to dip it in water, and he may hold his hand for a certain time in that stream of molten iron without receiving any injury whatever. This was exhibited publicly at a meeting of the British Association at Ipswich many years ago, at the foundery of Messrs. Ransome, the well-known agricultural implement makers. It is one of the miracles of science, so to speak; they are perfectly credible to scientific men, because they know the principle upon which it happens, and that principle is familiar to you all—that if you throw a drop of water upon hot iron, the water retains its spherical form, and does not spread upon it and wet it. Vapor is brought to that condition by intense heat, that it forms a sort of film, or atmosphere, between the hand and the hot iron, and for a time that atmosphere is not too hot to be perfectly bearable. There are a number of these miracles of science, then, which we believe, however incredible at first sight they may appear, because they can all be brought to the test of experience, and can be at any time reproduced under the necessary conditions. Houdin, the conjurer, in his very interesting autobiography—a little book I would really recommend to any of you who are interested in the study of the workings of the mind, and it may be had for two shillings—Houdin tells you that he himself tried this experiment after a good deal of persuasion; and he says that the sensation of immersing his hand in this molten metal was like handling liquid velvet. These things, I say, can be exhibited openly—above-board; but these Spiritual phenomena will only come just when certain favorable conditions are present—conditions of this kind, that there is to be no scrutiny—no careful examination by skeptics; that there is to be every disposition to believe, and no manifestation of any incredulity, but the most ready reception of what we are told. I was asked some years ago to go into an investigation of the Davenport Brothers; but then I was told that the whole thing was to be done in the dark, and that I was to join hands and form part of a circle; and I responded to the invitation by saying that in all scientific inquiries I considered the hands and the eyes essential instruments of investigation, and that I could not enter into any inquiry, and give whatever name I possess in science to the result of it, in which I was not allowed freely to use my hands and my eyes. And, wherever I have gone to any of these Spiritual manifestations, and have been bound over not