Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 2.djvu/47

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35
EPIDEMIC DELUSIONS.

to interfere, I have seen things which, I feel perfectly certain, I could have explained if I had only been allowed to look under the table, for instance, or to place my leg in contact with the leg of the medium. And it has been publicly stated within the last month, that the very medium whom I suspected strongly of cheating on an occasion of this kind, was detected in the very acts which I suspected, but which I was not allowed to examine. I cannot, then, go further into this inquiry at the present time, but I can only ask you to receive my assurance as that of a scientific man, who has for a long course of years been accustomed to investigate the curious class of actions to which I have alluded, and which disguise themselves under different names. A great number of the very things now done, by persons professing to call themselves Spiritualists, were done thirty years ago, or professed to be done, by those who call themselves "Mesmerists;" thus the lifting of the whole body in the air was a thing that was asserted as possible by mesmerists, as is now done by Mr. Home and his followers. These things, I say, crop up now and then, sometimes in one form, sometimes in another; and it is the same general tendency to credulity, to the abnegation of one's common-sense, that marks itself in every one of these epidemics.

Thus, then, we come back to the principle from which we started—that the great object of all education should be to give to the mind that rational direction which shall enable it to form an intelligent and definite judgment upon subjects of this kind, without having to go into any question of formal reasoning upon them. Thus, for example, is it more probable that Mr. Home floated out of one window and in at another, or that Lord Lindsay should have allowed himself to be deceived as to a matter which he admits only occurred by moonlight? That is the question for common-sense. I believe, as I stated just now, that the tendency to the higher culture of the present age will manifest itself in the improvement of the next generation, as well as of our own; and it is in that hope that I have been encouraged on this and other occasions to do what I could for the promotion of that desire for self-culture, of which I see so many hopeful manifestations at the present day. When once a good basis is laid by primary education, I do not see what limit there need be to—I will not say the learning of future generations—but to their wisdom, for wisdom and learning are two very different things. I have known some people of the greatest learning, who had the least amount of wisdom of any persons who have come in my way. Learning, and the use that is made of it, are two very different things. It is the effort to acquire a distinct and definite knowledge of any subject that is worth learning, which has its ultimate effect, as I have said, upon the race, as well as upon the individual.

But there are great differences, as to their effects upon the mind, among different subjects of study; and I have long been of opin-