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Full text of "Scientific Papers - Vi"

644                                        PKESIDENTIA.L ADDRESS                                         [443
never saw the Influence of Madame Card conveyed otherwise than by word or gesture. .
After this experience I was not disinclined to believe that what was, or at any rate had recently been, orthodox opinion might be quite wrong, and accordingly became interested in what I heard from friends of the doings of Home and other so-called mediums. Some of the stories could, as it seemed, be explained away only 011 the supposition of barefaced lying, or more charitably as the result of hallucination, whether self-induced, or due to the suggestion and influence of others. The possibility of the latter view cannot be left out of account, but I have never seen i anything to show that it has the remotest application to my own experience or that of the friends with whom I have co-operated.
The interest that I felt was greatly stimulated by the appearance of Sir W. Crookes' " Notes of an Enquiry into the Phenomena called Spiritual during the years 1870—73*." I was acquainted with some of the author's scientific work, and knew that he was a skilful experimenter and likely to be alive to the precautions required in order to guard againsb sense illusions. Presumably also he would feel the difficulty of accepting conclusions so much out of harmony with ordinary and laboratory experience. If heavy tables in a dining-room can leave the floor, how is it that in the laboratory our balances can be trusted to deal with a tenth of a milligram ?
I have lately read over again Sir W. Crookes' article, and I do not wonder at the impression it produced upon me. I am tempted to quote one or two passages against which I find my old pencil marks. Under the heading— The Appearance of Hands, either Self-luminous or Visible by Ordinary Light, he writes, "I have retained one of these hands in my own, firmly resolved not to let it escape. There was no struggle or effort made to get loose, but it gradually seemed to resolve itself into vapour, and faded in that manner from my grasp." I believe that the rationalistic explanation is that the hand was an inflated glove, like a rubber balloon, from which the air gradually leaked away, but I gave Sir W. Crookes credit for being able to retain the rubber.
Another incident of an entirely different character is thus described. " A lady was writing automatically by means of the planchette. I was trying to devise a means of proving that what she wrote was not due to ' unconscious cerebration.' The planchette, as it always does, insisted that, although it was moved by the hand and arm of the lady, the intelligence was that of an invisible being who was playing on her brain as on a musical instrument,, and thus -moving her muscles. I therefore said to this intelligence, ' Can yon see the contents of this room ?' ' Yes,' wrote the planchette. c Can you see to read this newspaper ?' said I, putting my finger on a copy of the
* Quarterly Journal, of Science, Jan. 1874.of Applause from the Gentlemen in the cane-bottom chairs—(i.e. believers).