Andrew Lang.

Cock Lane and Common-Sense online

. (page 23 of 24)
Online LibraryAndrew LangCock Lane and Common-Sense → online text (page 23 of 24)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


the evolution of religion, custom, manners, mythology, law, Mr.
Tylor writes: -

'It is a matter worthy of consideration that the accounts of similar
phenomena of culture, recurring in different parts of the world,
actually supply incidental proof of their own authenticity. . . .
The test of recurrence comes in. . . . The possibility of
intentional or unintentional mystification is often barred by such a
state of things as that a similar statement is made in two remote
lands by two witnesses, of whom A lived a century before B, and B
appears never to have heard of A.'

If for 'similar phenomena of culture' here, we substitute 'similar
abnormal phenomena' (such as clairvoyance, wraiths, unexplained
disturbances), Mr. Tylor's argument in favour of his evidence for
institutions applies equally well to our evidence for mysterious
'facts'. 'How distant are the countries,' he goes on, 'how wide
apart are the dates, how different the creeds and characters in the
catalogue of the facts of civilisation, needs no further showing' -
to the student of Mr. Tylor's erudite footnotes. In place of 'facts
of civilisation' read 'psychical phenomena,' and Mr. Tylor's
argument applies to the evidence for these rejected and scouted
beliefs.

The countries from which 'ghosts' and 'wraiths' and 'clairvoyance'
are reported are 'distant'; the dates are 'wide apart'; the 'creeds
and characters of the observers' 'are 'different'; yet the evidence
is as uniform, and as recurrent, as it is in the case of
institutions, manners, customs. Indeed the evidence for the
rejected and abnormal phenomena is even more 'recurrent' than the
evidence for customs and institutions. Polyandry, totemism, human
sacrifice, the taboo, are only reported as existing in remote and
semi-civilised countries. Clairvoyance, wraiths, ghosts, mysterious
disturbances and movements of objects are reported as existing, not
only in distant ages, but today; not only among savages or
barbarians, but in London, Paris, Milan. No ages can be more wide
apart, few countries much more distant, than ancient Egypt and
modern England: no characters look more different than that of an
old scribe under Pharaoh, and that of a distinguished soldier under
Queen Victoria. Yet the scribe of Khemi and General Campbell suffer
from the same inexplicable annoyance, attribute it to the same very
abnormal agency, and attempt (not unsuccessfully) to communicate
with that agency, in precisely the same way.

This, though a striking, is an isolated and perhaps a casual example
of recurrence and uniformity in evidence. Mr. Tylor's Primitive
Culture is itself a store-house of other examples, to which more may
easily be added. For example, there is the old and savage belief in
a 'sending'. The medicine-man, or medium, or witch, can despatch a
conscious, visible, and intelligent agent, non-normal, to do his
bidding at a distance. This belief is often illustrated in the
Scandinavian sagas. Rink testifies to it among the Eskimo, Grinnell
among the Pawnees: Porphyry alleges that by some such 'telepathic
impact' Plotinus, from a distance, made a hostile magician named
Alexander 'double up like an empty bag,' and saw and reported this
agreeable circumstance. {352} Hardly any abnormal phenomenon or
faculty sounds less plausible, and the 'spectral evidence' for the
presence of a witch's 'sending,' when the poor woman could establish
an alibi for her visible self, appeared dubious even to Cotton
Mather. But, in their Phantasms of the Living, Messrs. Gurney and
Myers give cases in which a visible 'sending' was intentionally
emitted by Baron Schrenck Notzing, by a stock-broker, by a young
student of engineering, and by a French hospital nurse, to take no
other instances. The person visited frequently by the 'sendings' in
the last cases was a French physician engaged in the hospital, who
reports and attests the facts. All the cases are given at first
hand on the testimony of the senders and of the recipients of the
sendings. Bulwer Lytton was familiar with the belief, and uses the
'shining shadow' in A Strange Story. Now here is uniform recurrent
evidence from widely severed ages, from distant countries, from the
Polar North, the American prairie, Neoplatonic Egypt and Greece,
England and New England of the seventeenth century, and England and
Germany of today. The 'creeds and characters of the observers' are
as 'different' as Neoplatonism, Shamanism, Christianity of divers
sects, and probably Agnosticism or indifference. All these
conditions of unvarying testimony constitute good evidence for
institutions and customs; anthropologists, who eagerly accept such
testimony in their own studies, may decide as to whether they
deserve total neglect when adduced in another field of anthropology.

Turning from 'sendings,' or 'telepathy' voluntarily brought to bear
on one living person by another, we might examine 'death-bed
wraiths,' or the telepathic impact - 'if that hypothesis of theirs be
sound' - produced by a dying on a living human being. A savage
example, in which a Fuegian native on board an English ship saw his
father, who was expiring in Tierra del Fuego, has the respectable
authority of Mr. Darwin's Cruise of the Beagle. Instances, on the
other hand, in which Australian blacks, or Fijians, see the
phantasms of dead kinsmen warning them of their decease (which
follows punctually) may be found in Messrs. Fison and Howitt's
Kamilaroi and Kurnai.

From New Zealand Mr. Tylor cites, with his authorities, the
following example: {353} 'A party of Maoris (one of whom told the
story) were seated round a fire in the open air, when there
appeared, seen only by two of them, the figure of a relative left
ill at home. They exclaimed, the figure vanished, and, on the
return of the party, it appeared that the sick man had died about
the time of the vision.' A traveller in New Zealand illustrates the
native belief in the death-wraith by an amusing anecdote. A
Rangatira, or native gentleman, had gone on the war-path. One day
he walked into his wife's house, but after a few moments could not
be found. The military expedition did not return, so the lady,
taking it for granted that her husband, the owner of the wraith, was
dead, married an admirer. The hallucination, however, was _not_
'veridical'; the warrior came home, but he admitted that he had no
remedy and no feud against his successor. The owner of a wraith
which has been seen may be assumed to be dead. Such is Maori
belief. The modern civilised examples of death-wraiths, attested
and recorded in Phantasms of the Living, are numerous; but
statistics prove that a lady who marries again on the strength of a
wraith may commit an error of judgment, and become liable to the
penalty of bigamy. The Maoris, no statisticians, take a more
liberal and tolerant view. These are comparatively scanty examples
from savage life, but then they are corroborated by the wealth of
recurrent and coincident evidence from civilised races, ancient and
modern.

On the point of clairvoyance, it is unnecessary to dwell. The
second-sighted man, the seer of events remote in space or not yet
accomplished in time, is familiar everywhere, from the Hebrides to
the Coppermine River, from the Samoyed and Eskimo to the Zulu, from
the Euphrates to the Hague. The noises heard in 'haunted houses,'
the knocking, routing, dragging of heavy bodies, is recorded, Mr.
Tylor says, by Dayaks, Singhalese, Siamese, and Esths; Dennys, in
his Folklore of China, notes the occurrences in the Celestial
Empire; Grimm, in his German Mythology, gives examples, starting
from the communicative knocks of a spirit near Bingen, in the
chronicle of Rudolf (856), and Suetonius tells a similar tale from
imperial Rome. The physician of Catherine de Medicis, Ambroise
Pare, describes every one of the noises heard by the Wesleys, long
after his day, as familiar, and as caused by devils. Recurrence and
conformity of evidence cannot be found in greater force.

The anthropological test of evidence for faith in the rejected
phenomena is thus amply satisfied. Unless we say that these
phenomena are 'impossible,' whereas totemism, the couvade,
cannibalism, are possible, the testimony to belief in clairvoyance,
and the other peculiar occurrences, is as good in its way as the
evidence for the practice of wild customs and institutions. There
remains a last and notable circumstance. All the abnormal
phenomena, in the modern and mediaeval tales, occur most frequently
in the presence of convulsionaries, like the so-called victims of
witches, like the Hon. Master Sandilands, Lord Torphichen's son
(1720), like the grandson of William Morse in New England (1680),
and like Bovet's case of the demon of Spraiton. {355}

The 'mediums' of modern spiritualism, like Francis Fey, are, or
pretend to be, subject to fits, anaesthesia, jerks, convulsive
movements, and trance. As Mr. Tylor says about his savage
jossakeeds, powwows, Birraarks, peaimen, everywhere 'these people
suffer from hysterical, convulsive, and epileptic affections'. Thus
the physical condition, all the world over, of persons who exhibit
most freely the accepted phenomena, is identical. All the world
over, too, the same persons are credited with the _rejected_
phenomena, clairvoyance, 'discerning of spirits,' powers of
voluntary 'telepathic 'and 'telekinetic' impact. Thus we find that
uniform and recurrent evidence vouches for a mass of phenomena which
science scouts. Science has now accepted a portion of the mass, but
still rejects the stranger occurrences. Our argument is that their
invariably alleged presence, in attendance on the minor occurrences,
is, at least, a point worthy of examination. The undesigned
coincidences of testimony represent a great deal of smoke, and
proverbial wisdom suggests a presumption in favour of a few sparks
of fire. Now, if there are such sparks, the animistic hypothesis
may not, of course, be valid, - 'spirits' may not exist, - but the
universal belief in their existence may have had its origin, not in
normal facts only, but in abnormal facts. And these facts, at the
lowest estimate, must suggest that man may have faculties, and be
surrounded by agencies, which physical science does not take into
account in its theory of the universe and of human nature.

We have already argued that the doctrines of theism and of the soul
need not to be false, even if they were arrived at slowly, after a
succession of grosser opinions. But if the doctrines were reached
by a process which started from real facts of human nature, observed
by savages, but not yet recognised by physical science, then there
may have been grains of truth even in the cruder and earlier ideas,
and these grains of gold may have been disengaged, and fashioned,
not without Divine aid, into the sacred things of spiritual
religion.

The stories which we have been considering are often trivial,
sometimes comic; but they are universally diffused, and as well
established as universally coincident testimony can establish
anything. Now, if there be but one spark of real fire to all this
smoke, then the purely materialistic theories of life and of the
world must be reconsidered. They seem very well established, but so
have many other theories seemed, that are long gone the way of all
things human.





Footnotes:


{0a} Fortnightly Review, February 1866, and in a lecture, 1895.

{0b} This diary was edited for private circulation, by a son of Mr.
Proctor's, who remembers the disturbances.

{0c} See essays here on Classical and Savage Spiritualism.

{0d} This was merely a cheerful obiter dictum by the learned
President.

{4} Not the house agent.

{9} Porphyry, Epistola xxi. Iamblichus, De Myst., iii. 2.

{11} The Port Glasgow story is in Report of the Dialectical
Society, p. 200. The flooring was torn up; walls, ceilings,
cellars, were examined by the police, and attempts were made to
imitate the noises, without success. In this case, as at Rerrick in
the end of the seventeenth century, and elsewhere, 'the appearance
of a hand moving up and down' was seen by the family, 'but we could
not catch it: it quietly vanished, and we only felt cold air'. The
house was occupied by a gardener, Hugh McCardle. Names of
witnesses, a sergeant of police, and others, are appended.

{12} Report of Dialectical Society, p. 86.

{17a} For ourselves, we have never seen or heard a table give any
responses whatever, any more than we have seen the ghosts, heard the
raps, or viewed the flights of men in the air which we chronicle in
a later portion of this work.

{17b} Report on Spiritualism, Longmans, London, 1871.

{18} Report, p. 229.

{21} Mr. Wallace may be credited with scoring a point in argument.
Dr. Edmunds had maintained that no amount of evidence would make him
believe in certain obvious absurdities, say the lions in Trafalgar
Square drinking out of the fountains. Mr. Wallace replied: 'The
asserted fact is either possible or not possible. If possible, such
evidence as we have been considering would prove it; if not
possible, such evidence could not exist.' No such evidence exists
for the lions; for the phenomena of so-called spiritualism, we have
consentient testimony in every land, period and stage of culture.
That certainly makes a difference, whatever the weight and value of
the difference may be.

{26a} This illustration is not Mr. Lecky's.

{26b} We have here thrown together a crowd of odd experiences. The
savages' examples are dealt with in the next essay; the Catholic
marvels in the essay on 'Comparative Psychical Research'. For
Pascal, consult L'Amulette de Pascal, by M. Lelut; for Iamblichus,
see essay on 'Ancient Spiritualism'. As to Welsh, the evidence for
the light in which he shone is printed in Dr. Hill Burton's Scot
Abroad (i. 289), from a Wodrow MS. in Glasgow University. Mr. Welsh
was minister of Ayr. He was meditating in his garden late at night.
One of his friends 'chanced to open a window towards the place where
he walked, and saw clearly a strange light surround him, and heard
him speak strange words about his spiritual joy'. Hill Burton
thinks that this verges on the Popish superstition. The truth is
that eminent ministers shared the privileges of Mediums and of some
saints. Examples of miraculous cures by ministers, of clairvoyance
on their part, of spirit-raps attendant on them, and of prophecy,
are current on Presbyterian hagiology. No ministers, to our
knowledge, were 'levitated,' but some _nearly_ flew out of their
pulpits. Patrick Walker, in his Biographia Presbyteriana, vol. ii.
p. 21, mentions a supernatural light which floated round The Sweet
Singers, Meikle John Gibb and his friends, before they burned a
bible. Mr. Gibb afterwards excelled as a pow-wow, or Medicine Man,
among the Red Indians.

{30} Teutonic Mythology, English translation, vol. ii. p. 514. He
cites Pertz, i. 372.

{31} A very early turning table, of 1170, is quoted from Giraldus
Cambrensis by Dean Stanley in his Canterbury Memorials, p. 103. The
table threw off the weapons of Becket's murderers. This was at
South Malling. See the original in Wharton's Anglia Sacra, ii. 425.

{35} See Mr. Tylor's Primitive Culture, chap, xi., for the best
statement of the theory.

{38} Petitot, Traditions Indiennes du Canada Nord-Ouest, p. 434.

{40} Very possibly the whirring roar of the turndun, or [Greek], in
Greek, Zuni, Yoruba, Australian, Maori and South African mysteries
is connected with this belief in a whirring sound caused by spirits.
See Custom and Myth.

{41a} Proc. S. P. R., xix. 180.

{41b} Brough Smyth, i. 475.

{42} Auckland, 1863, ch. x.

{45a} [Greek]. - Iamblichus.

{45b} Kohl, Kitchi-Gami, p. 278.

{48} Hind's Explorations in Labrador, ii. 102.

{50a} Rowley, Universities' Mission to Central Africa, p. 217:
cited by Mr. Tylor.

{50b} Quoted in La Table Parlante, a French serial, No. I, p. 6.

{51} Colonel A. B. Ellis, in his work on the Yorubas (1894),
reports singular motions of a large wooden cylinder. It is used in
ordeals.

{52} The Natural and Morall History of the East and West Indies, p.
566, London, 1604.

{53} February 9, 1872. Quoted by Mr. Tylor, in Primitive Culture,
ii. 39, 1873.

{57} Revue des Deux Mondes, 1856, tome i. p. 853.

{60} Hallucinations, English translation, p. 182, London, 1859.

{62} Laws, xi.

{63} Records of the Past, iv. 134-136.

{65a} The references are to Parthey's edition, Berlin, 1857.

{65b} [Greek], 4, 3.

{65c} All are, for Porphyry, 'phantasmogenetic agencies'.

{66a} Jean Brehal, par P.P. Belon et Balme, Paris, s.a., p. 105.

{66b} Proces de Condemnation, i. 75.

{67a} Appended to Beaumont's work on Spirits, 1705.

{67b} See Mr. Lillie's Modern Mystics, and, better, Mr. Myers, in
Proceedings S. P. R., Jan., 1894.

{68a} Origen, or whoever wrote the Philosophoumena, gives a recipe
for producing a luminous figure on a wall. For moving lights, he
suggests attaching lighted tow to a bird, and letting it loose.
Maury translates the passages in La Magie, pp. 58-59.
Spiritualists, of course, will allege that the world-wide theory of
spectral lights is based on fact, and that the hallucinations are
not begotten by subjective conditions, but by a genuine
'phantasmogenetic agency'. Two men of science, Baron Schrenk-
Notzing, and Dr. Gibotteau, vouch for illusions of light
accompanying attempts by _living_ agents to transfer a hallucinatory
vision of themselves to persons at a distance (Journal S. P. R.,
iii. 307; Proceedings, viii. 467). It will be asserted by
spiritualists that disembodied agencies produce the same effect in a
higher degree.

{68b} [Greek].

{69} [Greek].

{70a} Damascius, ap. Photium.

{70b} [Greek].

{71} Life of Hugh Macleod (Noble, Inverness). As an example of the
growth of myth, see the version of these facts in Fraser's Magazine
for 1856. Even in a sermon preached immediately after the event, it
was said that the dreamer _found_ the pack by revelation of his
dream!

{72} iii. 2. [Greek].

{73} Greek Papyri in the British Museum; edited by F. G. Kenyon,
M.A., London, 1893.

{74} See notice in Classical Review, February, 1894.

{75a} See oracles in Eusebius, Praep. Evang., v. 9. The medium was
tied up in some way, he had to be unloosed and raised from the
ground. The inspiring agency, in a hurry to be gone, gave
directions for the unbinding. [Greek]. The binding of the Highland
seer in a bull's hide is described by Scott in the Lady of the Lake.
A modern Highland seer has ensconced himself in a boiler! The
purpose is to concentrate the 'force'.

{75b} Praep. Evang., v. 8.

{75c} Ibid., v. 15, 3.

{78a} Dr. Hodgson, in Proceedings S. P. R., Jan., 1894, makes Mr.
Kellar's evidence as to Indian 'levitation' seem far from
convincing! As a professional conjurer, and exposer of
spiritualistic imposture, Mr. Kellar has made statements about his
own experiences which are not easily to be harmonised.

{78b} Proceedings S. P. R. Jan., 1894.

{86} The Miraculous Conformist. A letter to the Honourable Robert
Boyle, Esq. Oxford: University Press, 1666.

{88a} Fourth edition, London, 1726.

{88b} In Kirk's Secret Commonwealth, 1691. London: Nutt, 1893.

{90a} In the Salem witch mania, a similar case of levitation was
reported by the Rev. Cotton Mather. He produced a cloud of
witnesses, who could not hold the woman down. She would fly up.
Mr. Mather sent the signed depositions to his opponent, Mr. Calef.
But Calef would not believe, for, said he, 'the age of miracles is
past'. Which was just the question at issue! See Beaumont's
Treatise of Spirits, p. 148, London, 1705.

{90b} Miracles and Modern Spiritualism, p. 7. London: Burns,
1875.

{90c} Popular Tales, iv. 340.

{94} The anecdote is published by Charles Kirkpatrick Sharpe, in a
letter of Lauderdale's, affixed to Sharpe's edition of Law's
Memorialls.

{95} See Ghosts before the Law.

{96} Proceedings S. P. R., xv. 33.

{100a} See many examples in Li Fiorette de Misser Santo Francesco.

{100b} Ch. cxviii.

{101} D. D. Home; his Life and Mission, p. 307, London, 1888.

{102} Sept. 18, vol. v., 1866.

{107a} See Colonel Yule's Marco Polo.

{107b} Quarterly Journal of Science, July, 1871.

{108a} Proceedings S. P. R., xix. 146.

{108b} North American Review, 1893.

{108c} Proceedings S. P. R., x. 45-100; xix. 147.

{109a} Incidents in my Life, i. 170.

{109b} A Paris, chez la Veuve du Carroy, 1621.

{110a} Folklore of China, 1876, p. 79.

{110b} Op. cit., p. 74.

{110c} Paris. Quarto. Black letter. 1528. The original is
extremely rare. We quote from a copy once in the Tellier
collection, reprinted in Recueil de Dissertations Anciennes et
Nouvelles sur les Apparitions. Leloup: Avignon, 1751, vol. ii. pp.
1-87.

{112} Proceedings S. P. R., xix. 186. 'C.' is a Miss Davis,
daughter of a gentleman occupying 'a responsible position as a
telegraphist'. The date was 1888.

{114a} Satan's Invisible World Discovered. Edinburgh: Reid, 1685.
Pp. 67-69.

{114b} Manuscript 7170, A, de la Bibliotheque du Roi.
Dissertations, ut supra, vol. i. pp. 95-129.

{115} Dufresnoy, op. cit., i. 95-129.

{117} Compare Bastian, Mensch., ii. 393, cited by Mr. Tylor.

{118} De Materia Daemon. Isagoge, p. 539. Ap. Corn. Agripp., De
Occult. Philosoph. Lyons, 1600.

{122} Aubrey gives a variant in his Miscellanies, on the authority
of the Vicar of Barnstaple. He calls Fey 'Fry'.

{123a} The Devonshire case, 'Story of a Something,' in Miss
O'Neill's Devonshire Idylls, is attested by a surviving witness.

{123b} Trials of Isobell Young, 1629, and of Jonet Thomson, Feb. 7,
1643. Darker Superstitions of Scotland, p. 593.

{124} Witness Rev. E. T. Vaughan, King's Langley. 1884.

{125a} Segraisiana, p. 213.

{125b} Crookes's Notes of an Enquiry into the Phenomena usually
called Spiritual. 86. London: Burns (second edition).

{126a} Satan's Invisible World Discovered, p. 75.

{126b} A New Confutation of Sadducism, p. 5, writ by Mr. Alexander
Telfair, London, 1696.

{129} Primitive Culture, vol. i. 368; ii. 304.

{130} The reader may also consult Notes on the Spirit Basis of
Belief and Custom, a rough draft printed for the Indian Government.
While rich in curious facts, the draft contains very little about
'manifestations,' except in 'possession'.

{131a} Gregory, Dialogues, iv. 39.

{131b} De Rerum Varietate, xvi. cap. xciii.

{132} De Praestigiis Daemon.

{133} Si fallere possunt, ut quis videre se credat, cum videat
revera extra se nihil: non poterunt fallere, ut credat quis se
audire sonos, quos revera non audit? (p. 81).

{135} Proceedings S. P. R., xv. 42.

{137} There is one possible exception to this rule.

{139} S. P. R., viii. 81.

{140a} Geschichte des Neueren Occultismus, p. 451.

{140b} Opera, 1605.

{142} S. P. R., vi. 149.

{146} Proc. S. P. R., viii. 133.

{147} Proc. S. P. R., Nov., 1889, p. 269.

{149} This is rather overstated; there were knocks, and raps, and
footsteps (Proc. S. P. R., Nov., 1889, p. 310).

{150} Proc. S. P. R., April, 1885, p. 144.

{151} To be frank, in a haunted house the writer did once see an
appearance, which was certainly either the ghost or one of the
maids; 'the Deil or else an outler quey,' as Burns says.

{153} London, 1881, pp. 184-185.

{156} S. P. R., xv. 64.

{158a} Proceedings S. P. R., xvi. 332.

{158b} Sights and Shadows, p. 60.

{165} British Chronicle, January 18, 1762.

{166} Annual Register.

{167} Praep. Evang., v. ix. 4.

{170a} Rudolfi Fuldensis, Annal., 858, in Pertz, i. 372. See
Grimm's Teutonic Mythology, Engl. transl., p. 514.

{170b} Pseudo-Clemens, Homil., ii. 32, 638. In Mr. Myers's
Classical Essays, p. 66.

{178} Avignon, 1751.

{183} Compare the case of John Beaumont, F.R.S., in his Treatise of
Spirits (1705).

{186} Proceedings S. P. R., viii. 151-189.

{189} Mrs. Ricketts was a sister of Lord St. Vincent, who tried, in
vain, to discover the cause of the disturbances. Scott says
(Demonology and Witchcraft, p. 360): 'Who has heard or seen an
authentic account from Lord St. Vincent?' There is a full account
in the Journal of the S. P. R. It appeared much too late for Sir
Walter Scott also complains of lack of details for the Wynyard
story. They are now accessible. People were, in his time, afraid
to make their experiences public.


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 23

Online LibraryAndrew LangCock Lane and Common-Sense → online text (page 23 of 24)