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certain sources of information. She finds knowledge of events


which have taken place a long time ago or at a distance. But
the question is to know how she acquires this knowledge. Is
it in going back into time and space, and in witnessing these
events as they occur? Or is it by means of information re-
ceived from the actors still in existence? They themselves,
however, do not remember them, or else only imperfectly so.
Is it through the influence of contemporaneous intelligences,
absorbed as they are by other thoughts, and keeping in reserve
in their brain a mass of forgotten information which they
offer unconsciously to the perception of the person in a state
of trance? Or is it that as long as the state of trance exists
they are receptors of a sole, universal intelligence, of which
all ordinary consciousnesses, past and present, are but a part ?

Opinions may differ upon the point of knowing which is
the least extravagant supposition. It is possible to invent a
simpler hypothesis, but actually my feelings are that no explana-
tion can be given to all the facts. We are, it seems, at the
beginning of what is, in reality, a new branch of science. To
pretend to forge explanations, except to try to relate the facts
among them and to open a new field of experimentation, is as
premature as it would have been for Galvani to explain the
nature of electricity, or for Copernicus to attempt an explana-
tion of the laws of comets and meteors.

It is especially in the last chapters of his book that
Sir Oliver Lodge speaks of the supposed communica-
tions between his deceased colleagues and himself,
obtained through Mrs. Thompson, Mrs. Piper, and
Mrs. Grove. But these communications, nearly al-
ways confused, reveal the intimate details of a character
which easily causes a conviction in the minds of those
who, having known the communicators when living,
believe that they recognize them by these very details.
For those who simply read the accounts of them, they


remain almost incomprehensible and in any case un-
convincing. Sir Oliver Lodge says:

It is an error to believe that there exists anything sensational
or particularly moving in these communications. The conver-
sation resembles that over a telephone ; it is subject to the same
disagreeable interruptions, to the same periods of surprising
clarity, such as a happy expression, an intonation, an unexpected
detail revealing without possible error an identity — real or
manufactured — as, for instance, an appropriated surname, a
banal remembrance. Similarly, the parents of the communi-
cator, if they are present, may really be moved.

This undoubtedly is true. But it is equally true that
others may remain unmoved.

We shall not insist upon the ingenious theory of
" cross-correspondences," whose principal characteris-
tic is that a sole communicator, or control, is supposed
to manifest himself through several different mediums,
writing automatically, quite independent of one an-
other, distant from one another and often strangers;
they also may be kept ignorant of the nature of the
correspondence sought. In many cases the messages
thus obtained, isolatedly, are unintelligible and do not
reveal any sense until later, when combined. Thus a
full message does not exist in any living intelligence, for
not until the different parts of the communication have
been collected does their meaning appear.

The aim of these efforts, according to Sir Oliver
Lodge, is to prove clearly that these phenomena are the
work of some well-defined intelligence that is distinct
from that of any of the mediums, excluding the possi-
bility of a mutual telepathic communication between


them and establishing, as far as possible, by the sub-
stance and quality of the messages, that they really
are characteristic of the particular personality from
whom the communication appears to emanate, and of
none other.

But has this aim been attained?

" The question," says the author, " can be definitely
and conclusively settled only with time and much

In spite of all these cautious reservations, Sir Oliver
Lodge remains personally convinced that " as the best
working hypothesis at the present time it is legitimate
to grant that lucid moments of intercourse with de-
ceased persons may in the best cases supervene." He
considers, for his own part, as entirely established
although formulated as an hypothesis, the reasoning
which he enounces as follows : " Intelligent inter-
course between minds other than those of incarnated
human beings and ourselves has become possible."
And he expresses his belief in this startling compari-

The boundary between the two states — the known and the
unknown — is still substantial, but it is wearing thin in places ;
and like excavators engaged in boring a tunnel from opposite
ends, amid the roar of water and other noises, we are begin-
ning to hear now and again the strokes of the pickaxes of our
comrades on the other side.

Will all these hopes be confirmed by later researches
of science? Will the spiritistic interpretation of phe-
nomena so strange and hardly believable for all those
who have not observed them directly, supplant finally


the cryptopsychic interpretation, contrary to the opin-
ion hitherto prevalent among the majority of scientists?
This is a secret which the future alone will reveal.



(From La Magie science naturelle, by Carl du Prel)

Belief in magic is as old as humanity.

Religious and profane history, during all the cen-
turies and among all the nations, shows us that some
men distinguished themselves among their contem-
poraries by certain incomprehensible methods of reas-
oning, by the domination of nature's forces and of
other men. According to the very different applica-
tion of their faculties in the moral order of things,
these men were called saints, prophets, magicians, sor-
cerers, miracle workers, etc. In a general way they
might be called magi. Because, however, of the great
number of these stories and the unquestionable testi-
mony of many cases, we refuse to qualify them as fa-
bles. If, in our own times, we have shrunk from a
belief in magic, it is owing to the progress of modern
sciences, the increasing tendency of which has been to
develop themselves into closed systems; and unfortu-
nately such systems reject all facts which cannot enter
into them.

Taking into consideration the universal law of cau-
sality, it is perfectly clear that the word magic is for the
scientific researcher but the provisional denomination
of certain human faculties which have not hitherto



been sounded, and that magical phenomena cannot be
otherwise than based upon a natural science as yet un-
known to us. It is logical, therefore, to think that, on
account of its spontaneous development, modern science
will eventually end in magic, and become magic itself,
in so far as it will pass from the position of examining
that which is visible, tangible, and weighable, to that
which is invisible, intangible, and unweighable. For,
the more that matter is found in a refined state — as,
for instance, radiant matter — the more it will be
found to possess remarkable powers. It is easy for
us to be convinced of this fact, in physics as well as in
psychology, for have we not hypnotism at our disposal
to show us the points of contact between science and
magic — in other words, between natural science as
we know it and natural science that we do not know?

Progress in this direction cannot fail to be rapid, for
magic is but a line of projection in science. Especially
when feeling the necessity for widening their system
scientists will undertake the study of magic, which pos-
sesses certain laws that are still entirely ignored. The
man who limits his vision to the study of natural phe-
nomena explained by known laws of nature obtains but
a superficial progress; whereas the one who directs his
energies toward the clarification of problems still ob-
scure will enable others to reach the hidden center of
things, thereby compelling the widening and transform-
ing of existing systems of thought.

Those, therefore, who exclude magic from their in-
vestigations remain walled in a system which is but
provisional and which limits the horizon of progress.
For this reason it is very regrettable that science and


magic are regarded as being opposed to each other,
whereas in truth they complete each other advantag-
eously. It is by working in the two directions that one
can be convinced of this; for on the one side the reg-
ularity of the magical phenomena will be recognized,
while on the other will be seen the progressive magical
advancement of natural science.

Without retracting anything that has been said be-
fore, and without expecting too much from those read-
ers whose starting-point has been in natural science, it is
possible to meet their doubts and skepticisms. I do
not attribute to man the gift of certain magical powers
as understood in the Middle Ages, when every marvel
and sorcery, every magical practise — legitimate or
illegitimate — was explained by the supernatural help
of an angel or a demon. It is not necessary to have
recourse to this solution. The possession of magical
faculties is a natural endowment of man. Agrippa
of Nettesheim recognized this fact long ago : Spiritus
in nobis, qui viget, ilia facit. And they have a physical
basis: they are not supernatural but supersensible; and
their investigation should be our principal object.

These magical faculties are latent in us; conse-
quently, they must have manifested themselves before
their discovery and scientific examination. To allay all
hesitation in this direction, I have laid less stress upon
practical magic — as yet a premature undertaking —
than upon examples of an involuntary, natural, and
spontaneous nature, which demonstrate the regularity
of their production in conditions always similar. I
also hope that I have established the principal bases of
magic, once and for always: Magnetism is the key to


physical magic; mono-ideism, or the exercise of
thought joined to volition, is the key to psychological

The only way to reach an understanding of practical
magic is to study the natural examples of magic, to ob-
serve the conditions of their manifestation, and to
adapt them artificially afterward. Superstition, it is
true, has unfortunately given a wrong aspect to prac-
tical magic, for it did not take into consideration the
natural reality and regularity of its manifestations.
But we discover their germ of truth and their natural
scientific regularity when, comparing them with nature
— cum mundi codice primario, originali et autographo,
said Campanella — we recognize the concordance of
the artificial product with the natural and spontaneous

The reader's first doubts will vanish when he sees
innumerable examples of natural magic being produced
by experimentation, and realizes that natural science
has reached a degree where magical phenomena are
explained — as, for instance, clairvoyance through the
Roentgen rays, telepathy through wireless telegraphy,
fascination through the power of suggestion, and sor-
cery through the exteriorization of the sensitiveness.
He will finally reach the conclusion that if modern
science were in a state of perfection there would be
no more room for magic; and that it is by the study of
these same facts, called magical because they are con-
trary to our theories, that we shall be in a position to
reach our goal all the sooner.

If the reader believes that our system of nature
has uttered its last word, it would be better that he


should lay my book on one side; for in spite of all our
discoveries and inventions, however wonderful these
may be, we are, I believe, but at the beginning of sci-
ence, and the more we shall dig into the secrets of
nature the more marvelous we shall find her. Let us
recognize that the forces hitherto unknown seldom are
latent forces which are never manifested; rather are
they active forces constantly manifesting themselves
according to certain well determined conditions.

Apples fell from the tree long before Newton dis-
covered the law of gravitation. Therefore it must he
equally true that natural examples of magic existed
long before any one believed in them. It must be
recognized that phenomena in contradiction to natural
laws already known are constantly produced, though
they are nevertheless submitted to the law of causality
because they correspond to certain unknown laws of

This brief review, I hope, may reconcile medieval
superstition, which was mistaken only when interpreting
the explanation of the facts, with modern science, which
to-day, as in former times, makes the mistake of deny-
ing a priori certain facts that it will be forced to accept
finally, after having found the explanation in spite
of itself.



(Extract from the Revue philosophique, April i, 191 5)

To-day we are witnessing an attempt at the creation,
or at least the organization, of a new order of sciences
— the psychical sciences. Being en rapport with psy-
chology on the one hand, and the historical and socio-
logical sciences on the other, they have as their object
certain more or less extraordinary and apparently mar-
velous and mysterious phenomena which are spon-
taneously produced in our midst and are visibly re-
lated to unknown, or imperfectly known, forces and
faculties of man's moral and physical nature. Al-
though in some respects they appear to be more fre-
quent to-day, under the particular forms in which they
manifest themselves, they have nevertheless always
been present and have ever played an important and
more or less considerable role in the history of hu-

Religious life at all times and in all countries has
been replete with examples. For this reason it is quite
natural to ask whether the sciences which have as their
object the study of these phenomena, should not be
called upon to furnish, sooner or later, the indispensa-
ble elements necessary for the solution of the religious
problem of the present time.



First of all, what idea must we form of these sci-
ences which most savants refuse to consider seriously,
and which have to dispute their very existence to char-
latanism, superstition and incredulity?

Let us try to orientate our steps in the path obscured
by a pell-mell ensemble of psychical phenomena. It
would seem that we might distinguish three orders of
phenomena, which are superposed one upon the other
as they advance farther into the realms of mystery.
Some are already known and defined by laws; others
are still uncertain and contested, but at least not outside
of the circle of nature; while still others appear to
draw us out of this circle, upon a plane ordinarily sepa-
rated from that in which our life and activities are man-
ifested. This classification may be summarized in
three names: hypnotism, animal magnetism, spirit-
ism. Or, to use terms which we have proposed else-
where, we may call them: hypnoidal phenomena,
magnetoidal phenomena, spiritoidal phenomena.

Unfortunately, current opinion too often confounds
these distinct branches of psychical sciences, and it is
not infrequent to hear that spiritism is the study of the
phenomena of hypnotism or animal magnetism. One
might as well say that an astronomer is a physicist or a

The phenomena of the first order — hypnoidal phe-
nomena — comprise the following: (1) Suggestion,
as practised by the School of Nancy, in which the action
of the spoken word or of the gesture induces in certain
individuals, perhaps in all, a state of credulity or do-
cility more or less abnormal. (2) Hypnotism, as de-
scribed by the School of the Salpetriere : that is, a state


of torpor or of automatism provoked in certain subjects
by means of special physical processes — the fixation
of the gaze upon a brilliant object, pressure exerted
upon a given part of the body, etc. (3) Dissociation
of consciousness or cryptopsychism, so masterly de-
scribed by the eminent Dr. Pierre Janet, where one sees
the consciousness of an individual being projected, or
two or several " selves " are coexistent or succeed each
other in one and the same individual. All these phe-
nomena, however marvelous and baffling in nature,
do not compel us to suppose the existence of other
causes or faculties than those we already know, and
which appear possible of explanation by these very
causes or faculties, in supposing only that, in certain
particular conditions, they operate according to given
laws which are as yet unknown, laws more or less dif-
ferent from those we already know.

The phenomena of the second order — magnetoidal
phenomena — appear, on the contrary, to imply the
intervention of forces still unknown, unclassified, but
physical in nature and more or less analogous to the
radiating forces known in physics, such as light, heat,
electricity, magnetism, etc. They may be classified as
animal magnetism on the one hand, and telepsychism on
the other, according to whether the action of these
forces is being exerted in proximity through the in-
termediary of the entire nervous system, or at a great
distance, without intermediary, by the sole action of

Although the majority of scientists admit the reality
of the phenomena of the first order there are few who
are willing to consider magnetoidal phenomena as real


or at least as distinct from hypnoidal phenomena.
Hypnotic suggestion, it is true, may produce effects simi-
lar to those produced by magnetism; but when taken
separately and closely examined they will be found to
be specifically different and distinct. Thus animal mag-
netism can produce certain movements of attraction,
repulsion, anesthesia, contraction, etc., in a blindfolded
subject without the use of speech by the sole pres-
entation of the hand from a distance. The passes,
by which the mesmerist awakes or induces sleep in a
subject, owe their efficacy to this same psycho-magnetic
force, which appears to be polarised, as is electricity,
and which is also capable of effecting appreciable cures.

Not only are human beings susceptible to this action,
but also animals and plants. Quite recently it has
been proved that certain organic matter can be pre-
served from putrefaction by the sole action of the
passes or by the imposition of the hands. The proper-
ties of this psycho-magnetic force have also been com-
municated to material objects; this would explain, for
example, the curative action of magnetized water.

It is especially under the form of telepathy and sug-
gestion that the scientists of to-day have unconsciously
brought back the much-disputed question of mesmerism
and animal magnetism. The English and American
Societies for Psychical Research have gathered a great
number of authentic cases where the " image " of a
person, more often when on the verge of death, has
appeared to a relative or friend in spite of the enormous
distances separating them. It is as if an immediate
and spontaneous communication were established be-
tween them — in conditions as yet unknown, and an-


alogous to conditions in which wireless telegraphy and
telephony take place.

The phenomena of the third order — spiritoidal phe-
nomena — take us into a region still more obscure and
mysterious. They present themselves to us with an
appearance that is often illusory, always enigmatic
and disturbing, implying the intervention of intelligent
forces, not supernatural but extra-natural, which do not
belong to our world in a normal way, but which seem
suddenly to make an irruption on a plane of nature
foreign to that in which we move and have our being.

Whatever interpretation we may give to these phe-
nomena, however, our first duty is to make sure of
their reality. Let us beware of subordinating the ac-
ceptation of these facts to any theory brought for-
ward in explanation of them.

With the exception of certain phenomena — such as
haunting s, which should be the object of special investi-
gation — the spiritoidal phenomena seem always to
have as their necessary condition the action or the pres-
ence of individuals called mediums. There are two
kinds of mediums, although these may belong alter-
nately to one or the other category: the mediums who
produce effects of an intellectual nature, and those who
produce effects of a physical nature. Both physical and
intellectual effects are found in the ordinary table lift-
ing or table turning: movements of rotation, nutation,
translation, etc., and the words, phrases, and speeches
which are dictated by these movements. These effects
appear distinctly separated when considering, on the
one hand, those obtained by Mrs. Piper, which are
remarkable for the exactness of the information given


upon the relatives and antecedents of utter strangers
who visit her; and, on the other hand, the extraor-
dinary phenomena produced by Eusapia Palladino, who
causes heavy objects to move from a distance, the pro-
duction of phosphorescent lights in utter darkness, and
projections from her body of various materialized
forms, etc.

It must be observed, furthermore, that intellectual
mediumism presents the same phenomena as those ob-
tained by hypnotism and animal magnetism — disso-
ciation of the personality or cryptopsychism, thought-
reading, clairvoyance, etc. — though different in their
character of apparent spontaneity, and by their rela-
tion to certain spiritistic practises and beliefs. But
whatever interpretation may be adopted for this third
order of facts, it cannot be denied that they are ex-
tremely closely related to those of the two preceding
orders and that they come under the direction of similar
or communal laws.

From the ensemble of these facts two hypotheses
suggest themselves, the first of psychological or mental
order, the second of physiological or physical order.
The important thing is to know that there exist in the
human soul certain faculties of perception and of super-
normal action. These faculties are usually subcon-
scious, or cryptoidal, active under conditions as yet im-
perfectly defined; nevertheless they are real and are
active in all beings. There also exist in the human
organism certain unknown forces which are, as it were,
the physical agents of these faculties, and which, in
the ordinary state of things, are equally cryptoidal.

Shall we go farther still? Shall we admit the exist-


ence, outside of ourselves, of one or several intelligent
entities, capable of collaborating with us in the pro-
duction of certain psychical phenomena mainly through
the bringing into play of our faculties and supernormal

How shall we conceive these entities? Are they the
souls of the dead? Are they cosmic intelligences, or,
as in the conception of the Greeks, demons? Are they
elementals, larvae, astral microbes as the occultists call
them? Or are they that universal intelligence which
humanity calls God?

The psychical sciences, which hardly dare to ask the
questions, are still very far from replying to them.
Are these sciences, however, capable of bringing a use-
ful and practical solution to the religious problem?
This is the point upon which we shall particularly in-

It is necessary to distinguish, for the facility of study,
two inseparable questions. One corresponds to the
viewpoint of the savant or the philosopher; the other
to that of the believer, or of man in general: according
to whether one considers the exterior phenomenology of
religions, or the intimate and profound cause of the
religious sentiment.

From the first point of view there is not the slightest
doubt that the sciences of religion will find in the
psychical sciences a most appreciable help for the orien-
tation and advancement of their own researches.

The history of religions abounds in strange and
marvelous phenomena which the historian at first shirks
from mentioning, as being incredible and impossible,


or if he must admit them, he explains them as being a
result of misunderstandings and frauds — as the ra-

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Online LibraryEmile BoiracThe Psychology of the Future → online text (page 20 of 22)