Psychic - A Perhaps Incredible Story
( Originally Published 1918 )
THE fact that psychical experiences are relatively uncommon is no proof that they are negligible. Eclipses are uncommon, and they cannot be produced to order; but they can be carefully observed and dated when they occur, and this process has enabled us to understand them. So with earthquakes and volcanic eruptions and many other things. And it is not only the great and spectacular events that are important; very often the apparently trivial incident has led to great discovery. The huge electrical industries of today may be traced back to Benjamin Franklin's kite and to the frog's leg (I hope the story is not mythical, as some say) which twitched when in contact with two metals, earning Galvani the jeering title of "the frogs' dancing-master." The harnessing of steam began when Watt noticed the kettle-lid jumping. And the fall of an apple is alleged to have suggested to Newton the explanation of lunar and planetary motion. To a truly scientific mind no fact is unimportant. All are to be studied, and surface appearances may be deceitful; the little things may turn out great in their consequences. Patient study, without prejudice, is the right course.
But I am ready to admit cheerfully that it is difficult to keep a really open mind in face of some alleged happenings. Events differ in credibility according as they conform to types already regarded as admissible. I accept Mr. Grey's narrative (pp. 106-15) , partly because of his mental build and, so to speak, solidity, and partly because his experience fits in with other even more evidential incidents. But the next case is different, and I hardly know what to think about it. The lady is intellectual, educated, of high character, and sane enough so far as one can judge; yet . to quote Plutarch, the narrative "may perhaps not so much take and delight the reader with its novelty and curiosity as offend him by its extravagance." 1 On the other hand, if I tell the tale I can at least shelter myself behind Herodotus, who, even when expressing his own disbelief, considered it his duty "faithfully to record the traditions of the several nations"; and it has turned out in some cases that his disbelief was wrong and the tale was right. So I will not err on the side of a timorous suppression.
"To make my dreams intelligible to you I shall have to go into a little biographical detail. My father was a Wesleyan minister very much beloved, especially amongst the poor and sorrowful. In those days Wesleyan ministers were very poor, having a bare living provided for them. I was the eldest daughter, and my parents gave me the best education that they could, with the understanding that I should help to educate the younger children. At twenty-three I became the head of a large private school for girls. I was very happy in my work,' for I loved it dearly, and between my girls and myself there was a strong friendship. I always felt that the formation of character was even more important than intellectual training, and I had discovered for myself many of the modern improvements in education, and put them in practice, long before they were generally adopted. It was hard work, because my own education was only that of an ordinary girls' school, and I had to supplement it by constant study to keep myself up to date. I generally worked till late at night, using the drawing-room as my study.
"One night I was sitting there correcting some papers, all the rest of the household having gone to bed, when there came a very gentle ring at the front-door bell. Wondering who could be calling at such a late hour, I opened the door and admitted a gentleman whose name I did not catch. I took him into the drawing-room and seated him by the fire, taking a seat opposite him, where I could see his face. He was well dressed, in black, and I thought he had probably come about placing a pupil with me. We began to talk about the school and my aims and methods. There was something about him that drew me out. He listened with the closest attention and evident interest. There was some-thing about his eyes that I can never forget; they seemed to read my heart, and they were full of sympathy and friendliness; and before long I was confiding to him my hopes and fears and difficulties just as if he had been a brother.
"I don't seem to remember much that he said—just a word or a question now and again to show his sympathy and draw me out. I had been burdened with anxiety about one girl. She was just verging on womanhood, and, having a strong individuality, was a kind of leader among the others, and her influence was not always good. A few months before, a change seemed to come over her, and she became much more thoughtful and tender, so that I had great hopes of her. But she had been home for the Christmas holidays and had been very much indulged, and passed through a round of gaiety, and all her good impressions seemed to have been lost; and she was giving and causing a good deal of trouble in the school. But now the burden seemed to have been lifted, and I felt I was not alone in my efforts.
"Another thing was troubling me. I had a friend who was passing through great trouble. He had recently gone into business in a neighbouring town, and things were not going well with him because he was short of capital. I had lent him what money I could, but it was not enough to help him out of his difficulties, and he feared he should have to become bankrupt. I told my new friend about him and begged him to call and see him; and he promised to do so, and then rose and left me without my having remembered to ask for his name. But one thing he said remained with me. I had urged him to come again soon, for he had helped and cheered me so much. He replied that he should always be near me and I should see him again soon.
"After he was gone the conviction grew upon me that he was the Lord Jesus Christ; and from that time prayer became very real to me, for I always saw before me that loving, sympathetic countenance. A few weeks after, I had a visit from my friend, who asked, `On such a night, just before midnight, were you praying for me?' It was the night when the gentleman had called, 'so I said I was. `Well, I had sat up late over my accounts, and was growing more and more perplexed and troubled, when all at once a sense came over me of a loving presence, though I could not see anyone. My mind was calmed, the difficulties seemed to clear up, I saw a way out, and I said to myself, "My friend is praying for me." I went to bed and slept peacefully, which I had not done for many nights; and matters after that took a turn for the better.'
"Some considerable time after, one summer morning I woke just at dawn and lay awake for a time, remembering it was Sunday, and worshipping my dear Father in heaven. By and by I must have dropped asleep, for it seemed to me that I woke in a glorious place. I don't remember many details, save that it was very light and very beautiful, and that I was surrounded by all I had ever loved, without any slightest cloud of misunderstanding or darkness. I thought, `This must be heaven,' though how I got there I did not know. I wondered whether I should see the Saviour, when all at once my eyes were attracted to a blaze of glory, and there, seated upon a throne, was the Man who had visited me and whom I had been praying to as the Lord Jesus Christ. The face was the very same, and the eyes seemed to rest on me with loving welcome. He was surrounded by glorious beings who seemed to be coming and going continually. I stood and watched, and from time to time a messenger came with some tidings that caused His face to beam with joy, and I drew nearer to hear what they might be. I was feeling such a glow of love and gratitude to Him Who had brought me safely home that I longed unspeakably to do something to show my gratitude, and I thought, `If I could only bring that look of joy to His face I would be willing to bear anything.' Just then a messenger came telling Him of a poor drunkard who had been led to trust in Him and had given up the drink. Another told of a child who had given her young heart to Him; and again that look of unspeakable joy passed over His face. I burst into tears, saying to myself, `If I had only realized when I was on earth what it meant to Him for a sinner to be saved, how I should have worked!' And I woke myself with weeping, and rejoiced to find it was only a dream and I was still on earth where there were sinners to be saved.
"The great charm to me about `Raymond' is the proof that such work will be still required after we pass over.
"Hoping that I have not bored you with my long story,
"H. M. MURGATROYD."
The apparition of the Master Himself, in the habiliments of a modern Englishman and speaking our tongue, naturally lends itself to the ridicule of the scoffer. It is so easy to say that it was a hallucination or that Miss Murgatroyd, overtired, fell asleep and dreamt it all, and that her friend's sense of a helpful presence was just a chance coincidence. And indeed I admit—nay, I cheerfully agree—that this case is not evidential. It depends on the word of one person, and, however excellent that person may be in heart and head and in entire reliability as to ordinary things, we nevertheless cannot accept an unconfirmed statement on such momentous matters as are here involved. I therefore do not ask anyone to believe the story. I present it as a human document, leaving it at that.
But, while not asking for belief, I venture to suggest that suspense of judgment might be wiser than complete rejection of even such a strange story as this. If Jesus ever lived at all —and few doubt that the Gospels give at least some sketchy outline of a Person Who really existed—and if the dead can at times make themselves manifest to the living and can give them help, there is nothing a priori impossible or incredible in the narrative. Certainly it was of an extreme degree, but it was not unique in kind. If Jesus is alive and able to order His goings, it is reasonable to suppose that He will often be with those who love Him and are trying to follow Him. Usually, as with other nonterrene beings, He will not be perceived, but special conditions may bring Him into manifestation, whether on the road to Emmaus or in modern England, in some hour of quietness and passivity and abstraction from insistent sense-stimuli.
And this experience of Miss Murgatroyd's is not unique. I know of other cases. The Master seems to be manifesting Himself ,with increasing frequency to His faithful ones, though these are not always church members or even "professing" Christians; and the experiences have been unexpected and surprising. It seems to me that a Second Coming is not the absurd idea that we have often thought it; but it will not be so much a coming down on His part as a going up on ours. Perhaps the Western human race is now evolving or rising psychically into a plane in which the Master is always manifest; and Miss Murgatroyd and her co-seers are the advance-guard, the first to rise, if only momentarily, above the matter-mists which always blind the spiritual sight of more ordinary souls. I suggest this, not as an idea to be accepted as fact, but as a possibility which, though it would have seemed to me unutterably absurd a dozen years ago, now appears at least as a hypothesis to be borne in mind and to be treated with serious consideration.