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Visions Of The Dead - Spritualism And Insanity

( Originally Published 1918 )


"SIR,—In your issue of May 16th you did me the honour to print a letter by me on the subject named above. The following excerpts are from the concluding paragraph: `For myself I have been amazed by the revelation of the recent spread of so-called spiritualism, and believe this spread has been largely due to the influence of writings, some of which, unfortunately, have been issued by men belonging to the world of science . . .' `The serious investigation of psychic phenomena is one thing; the putting forth of "spooky" stories with either a real feeling or a pretence of solemnity is another, and one which it might be thought would have been avoided by writers of authority through the dread of the dangerous consequences which are so obviously to be feared.'

"Since writing this I have had the opportunity of reading an article on the subject by Sir Oliver Lodge in the April number of the Hibbert. Journal. The Editor of the Journal has, it seems to me probable, given place to Sir Oliver Lodge's article with a certainty that it would be tackled later on by one or other of the distinguished writers who contribute to his Review. The article, so far as its language goes and where language can express extremely vague impressions, is admirably clear, but even a half-educated doctor's wife should be capable of putting her finger upon weak and fallacious statements which it contains. Sir Oliver Lodge believes in telepathy, and assumes that `a strong emotion or other appropriate disturbance in the mind of one person may repeat itself more faintly in the perception of another previously related or specially qualified individual, even though separated by thousands of miles.' Sir Oliver does not attempt to explain how the mental processes in one individual can take some concrete form and travel through space half round the globe, there to influence the organism of some selected individual. When he has done this his hypothesis may perhaps find some solid foundation. From the hypotheses of telepathy it is quite easy for Sir Oliver to advance to the hypothesis of `discarnate minds,' and from this it is more easy to proceed to examine the powers of `mediums,' having special qualities enabling them to act as intermediaries between inquirers and such discarnate minds. Through fixing attention morbidly on problems of this kind quite beyond their mental grasp, the simple, weak and credulous readers may be easily led through the paths of `spiritualism' to a final goal within the portals of the lunatic asylum. Is it not imperative upon scientific men to confine discussion of these questions to scientific societies and strictly scientific publications?

"I am, sir, yours truly,


"May 24th."

Being one of the simple and . weak-minded individuals who are interested in "so-called spiritualism," I am naturally unequal to the intellectual task of deciding whether "a half-educated doctor's wife" means that she is the half-educated wife of a doctor or that she has the misfortune to be the wife of a half-educated doctor. If the former, we will not be so impolite as to contradict her. We may also agree most heartily that it might be well if the subject could be confined to scientific societies, for we might then hope to be spared the lucubrations of half-educated doctors' wives, who require a wireless telegraph instrument to be discovered inside our skulls before they will believe, however good the evidence, that telepathic communication is possible. One wonders whether the good lady believes that sugar sweetens her tea, for assuredly neither she nor anyone else fully understands the process of solution.

The first letter, as it happened, called forth a sort of reply from a much more than half-educated doctor, who practises as a specialist in a certain large town. It was in his house that the eight-times-seen spectre appeared. Here is his letter in the Medical Press of May 30th, 1917:

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