Popular Science Monthly/Volume 15/July 1879/Correspondence

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search



To the Editor of the Popular Science Monthly.

THERE seems to be nothing so capable 1 of throwing a "scientist" into a paroxysm of rage as the serious attempt to talk to him of spirit, spirit-world, "spiritual body" etc. In the words of Brewster, "spirit is the last thing he will give in to"; or, to put it in Huxley's mild way, "supposing the phenomena to be genuine, they do not interest me." One might suppose that men whose habits of mind are the offspring of careful investigation and calm inquiry, would take any class of phenomena, and at least contemplate them with scientific patience, keeping their minds poised and ready to receive more light. But no; some favorite hypothesis seems to be in danger, and our modern philosopher, who either claims the paternity of it, or hangs to the skirts of him thus highly honored, has always a choice assortment of literary missiles to hurl at the trespasser. When a man feels that he can not meet another in fair argument, he usually greets him with such choice epithets as fool, driveling idiot, lunatic, etc., etc. How scientific! How worthy of a scientific journal is such mean and cheap scurrility!

Such is the temper in which you have chosen to assail me and my recently published book, "Spiritual Communications," in the June number of "The Monthly." Of course, I can not contend with you in throwing mud; your vocabulary of abuse is richer and stronger than any I could possibly command; and I acknowledge, therefore, that you have the advantage of me in this respect; but let me suggest to you that one who claims to be a scientist should resort to the weapons of logic, not the bludgeon of a ruffian. Nor was even this brutal treatment sufficient to satisfy your scientific instincts. You seemed to think your literary crucifixion would be incomplete unless you brought a murderer to share my fate; but remember that the greatest being that ever walked upon the surface of this planet was crucified between two thieves; and remember, too, who did it. "Woe unto the world because of offenses, but woe unto that man by whom the offense cometh!" Your article does, indeed, show the "survival of savagery."

The editor of this book may, indeed, claim some consideration for accredited ability to investigate phenomena brought to his notice, as well as yourself. What right have you, who know nothing of the facts—and will not listen to the evidence on which they rest—to abuse me for stating them, simply because they do not fit into your notions, your conceits, and your theories? The man who refuses to investigate, or listen to the results of investigation—who shuts his eyes against the sun of truth, and angrily protests there is no sun he is the idiot; or, if he continues in that course, will soon become one. If you had read my book, you would have seen that, instead of setting aside all other spiritual revelations, that which is offered in the book strengthens and confirms the divine revelation of the Scriptures, and is presented in that relation to it; but it adds to it, and makes clear many things previously left in obscurity. Jesus said (John xvi. 12): "I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye can not bear them now." Science is constantly giving birth to new theories, as you your-self very well know. What, for example, is the science of chemistry now, compared to what it was when you first called at my school with your chart of its nomenclature? Why, then, should you quarrel with revelation if God chooses to expand it, and give us a little more spiritual light? Is your soul (excuse me, your mind) so bathed with heavenly radiance that you are afraid any addition to it will blind you?

Still, there is one part of your article on savagery that gives me real pleasure. You appear to be anxious for the integrity of "spiritual revelation." It does really appear as if you could look beyond the universe of matter to the far greater super-sensuous world of God's creation. I congratulate you and the world upon this heavenly change. Who knows but the millennium may be at hand, when the lion will lie down with the lamb (outside of him), and the editor of "The Popular Science Monthly" will be able to read "Spiritual Communications" without losing his philosophic temper, and without becoming lost to all sense of scientific and literary decency?

I commend to you, in conclusion, the words of Mr. Parke Godwin, which you are, doubtless, able to recall: "Let us be assured that some truth has come a good while ago, that it is coming still, in many ways, and will come in broader and rosier flashes in the future, though not to him who, ostrich-like, buries his head in the sand, or muffles his eyes against any of its illuminations."

I have the honor to subscribe myself,
Very sincerely your friend,

Henry Kiddle.

New York, June 5, 1879.


To the Editors of the Popular Science Monthly.

On page 637 of your September edition, there is an article entitled "Death to the English Sparrow," which refers to a communication in the "American Naturalist," written by one Dr. Elliott Coues, recommending the extermination of that pretty little creation of the Almighty, and suggesting that boys be constituted their executioners.

Who this enemy to God, through one of his works, is, I know not—whether he be a Zulu or an American savage, I care not; but, since he has been permitted a space in two of our leading menstruals, out of deference to them, I have thought proper to notice the barbarism of the sentiment uttered by him.

This man dares to rebuke the Maker of all things, by calling the innocent little being "a wretched interloper," which has no place in the "natural economy of this country"; and he betrays his own place in the social and professional world by characterizing all who think otherwise as "silly old fogies," "quasi-ornithologists," and "clacqueurs of the quasis."

This person, who thus arraigns his Creator, and attributes human fallibility to the Infinite, belongs, it seems, to a profession which should purge itself of a fellow who has not the brains to comprehend the meaning of humanity and good policy, nor yet the fact that God has not created anything needlessly—not even Elliott Coues.

This inverted genius suggests the policy of founding a school wherein boys may be educated in the practice of murder, which of course includes all other social crimes.

It is true, he does not advise these boys to begin by killing their parents, or other human beings, but to commence with an innocent little bird; when, after an apprenticeship of a few years, he presumes they will be prepared to do the heavy business of throat-cutting, stabbing, and shooting.

This wonderful individual, when he conceived this grandest idea of his life, doubtless had in his mind "the physical fact"—as the Honorable Mr. Sloate would say—that there is a beginning to everything; that the mighty Mississippi at its source is but a tiny stream, and hence his pupils in time would graduate from his college with all the honors enjoyed by the most distinguished students of crime that have ended their days upon the scaffold.

But the refreshing tenderness of this medical practitioner—whom possibly some innocent invalid may have unwittingly called to his bedside—is best expressed by himself. He says: "Let the birds shift for themselves; take down the boxes and all special contrivances for sheltering and petting the sparrows; stop feeding them; stop supplying them with building material; abolish the legal penalties for killing them; let boys kill them; let them be trapped and used as pigeons, or glass balls in shooting matches among sportsmen"!

It is said that the inventor of the guillotine was the first person to perish by it. that this modern Æsculapius would only introduce his beautiful theory among us here in New York—for he is a resident of a much-to-be-envied Eastern State—so that the undersigned might profit by the opportunity of making him acquainted with the legal guillotine which he would certainly be compelled to ascend!Henry Bergh.


To the Editors of the Popular Science Monthly.

There recently occurred in our city a case of stroke by lightning which, no doubt, from its strange freaks, will be of interest to the readers of The Popular Science Monthly. It took place in a grocery store, and two persons were the sufferers. The bolt, after tearing up the eaves of the house, entered it on the side, leaving a smutty stain between the cracks. It bulged out the side of the shop for several feet, put out the lamp, knocked down many articles from the shelves, took off the tops of several lamp-chimneys resting on them, completely tore off the paper wrappers of many small cakes of soap, and finally emerged at the corner of the room, tearing off several planks. In the passage of the current from one division of the shelves to the other, it either split the dividing boards or passed under them, partially fusing the nails and charring the adjacent wood. But what makes the stroke most remarkable is the way in which it affected the two men who were struck. One of them, Ware, was stunned for a few moments, had his pipe knocked from his mouth several feet away, and was left with a red, sore scar across his cheek and a paralysis of his arms, which latter remained for about two hours. Still more strangely did it deal with the other man, Bullard, who was resting upon the show-case opposite Ware. The current passed up his arm, under the armpit, down the right side of the body to the thigh, leaped across to the inner side of the left leer, and passed down the leg to the foot. It made a red bunch and sore mark upon the body, singed the hair from both legs, and left the sufferer unconscious for more than twenty-four hours. Both have fully recovered, with the exception of a little soreness. In both cases we noted the spiral direction of the current. The house was low, in a depressed situation, and protected with a rod.Robert F. Jackson, Jr.

Macon, Georgia, May 20, 1879.


To the Editors of the Popular Science Monthly.

Dear Sirs: Allow me to give expression to some thoughts suggested by reading the interesting article of Dr. Felix Oswald, in the April number of your publication. The author commits an error when he ascribes the forbidding, by Pythagoras, of using beans as an article of food to a deprecating view of it; it was just the opposite view that caused him to do so. I have before me an essay, "Pythagoras, the Sage of Samos," according to the latest researches, written by Eduard Baltzer (in German), who draws mainly on the "History of Philosophy," by Professor Roeth, of Heidelberg. Baltzer's work is the most successful of the different endeavors made to furnish, from the few fragments that have remained of his works, a biography of the greatest of ancient thinkers, the father of philosophy, as he has been truly called. Beans were forbidden for the common use of his followers, as they were considered a specially sacred article, and were only eaten at certain meals that formed a part of the Pythagorean cultus, the so-called Orphic mysteries.

The fundamental truth of preparing the body by a pure diet and pure physical habits for the growth of spiritual life, that formed the basis for all the doctrines of the ancient philosophers, and that has found the most distinct expression in the words of St. Paul, "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the spirit of God dwelleth in you?" etc., has become utterly darkened to the modern perception in its clumsy materialistic tendency—the very rudiments of instinct, the organic perception of the laws of nature underlying its structure, have been lost or utterly distorted by the wrong habits of a carnivorous race; and the modern man, with all his vaunted scientific acquirements, will yet have to go begging to antiquity to gather some crumbs of wisdom and truth. As the earth receives the effects of solar radiation, the source of all its organized physical life, only after it has been modified and polarized by its atmospheric medium—whereby the solar energy assumes, as it were, a geomorphous condition—just so all spiritual perception in the human mind becomes anthropomorphized, individually as well as generically, by the physical condition of the body; and the clear-eyed observer recognizes the cause of mental and moral anomalies in the condition of the physical postulates. Pessimism, as it seems to spread like a frightening nightmare through the race, is nothing but a spiritual perception, polarized to distortion by a bodily medium poisoned by tobacco and alcohol; and every one suffering from it can cure himself and become an optimist by adopting a pure Pythagorean diet, and thus armored draw truth from the wells of divine revelation. I feel free to say so, because, for the sake of experiment, I have changed myself backward and forward severally out of one state of mind into the other.

Returning to our beans, I find that there is no article of food equal to them for gaining the physical postulate for a higher spiritual soul-life. Wheat may be rightly called the best brain-food—next to wheat probably barley, but receiving a greater share of direct sunlight than the beans, which are surrounded by a thicker husk or hull than the grain; whereas the latter, receiving a greater share of indirect radiation through their larger leaves, the grain possesses a more positive vital polarity in its nutritive influence, and the bean a more negative one, whereby the former favors subjective, active, intellectual effort, and the latter predisposes to objective intellectual receptivity, the requirement for spiritual perception.

The New-Englanders, who may be called, I suppose, the salt of the American nation, in establishing baked beans as a national dish, have furnished a proof of the absolute wisdom manifested in the mysterious operations of the unconscious in human nature, as a modern pessimistic philosopher chooses to call the result of divine guidance in the inner life of man.

Respectfully, Julius Ashman.
New York, April 4, 1879.