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Mrs. Piper & the Society for Psychical Research Part 17

"Why do you say that?"

"Are you going? Good-bye."

"I want to go along the same path with you."

"Hear the whistle?" (This was an earthly whistle, which those present also heard.)

FOOTNOTES:

[86] _Proc. of S.P.R._, vol. xvi. p. 322.

[87] That is to say, Imperator, who always signalises his presence by making a cross on the paper, or, with his hand, in the air.

[88] The spirits in whose company she has been.

[89] _Proc. of S.P.R._, vol. xvi. p. 396.

CHAPTER XX

Encouraging results obtained--The problem must be solved.

And now, can there be a conclusion to this work? It does not allow of any conclusion. The most I can do in terminating is to record certain facts. Dr Hodgson, Professor Hyslop and others, who, though unprejudiced, began these studies as sceptical as anyone, have ended, after long years of hesitation, by giving their adhesion to the spiritualist hypothesis. But, as they are careful to point out, they accept this hypothesis conditionally, and not definitely. New experiments and new facts may turn their minds in quite another direction.

Should we follow them? Should we each admit conditionally the spiritualist hypothesis? Not at all; it is not thus that knowledge is attained. Whoever believes that he has excellent reasons for preferring any other hypothesis should remain unshakable in his convictions till the time when new facts may oblige him to abandon them. Science does not ask that we should prefer this or the other explanation; it only asks that we should study the facts unprejudiced, that we should be sincere, and not shut our eyes childishly to the evidence.

If a future life is to be, I will not say proved, but admitted by a majority, a great number of experimenters, or, if you please, observers, working independently of one another in all quarters of the globe, must reach identical conclusions. Again, it must be possible for any intelligent man willing to make the effort, and retracing the path followed by the first observers, to arrive at the same conclusions. The _magister dixit_ is out of date. Teachers in the present day must show their disciples the path of truth, and not try to impose upon them what they themselves regard as truth. Modern science knows no infallible Pope, speaking _ex cathedra_.

Further, we must not confine ourselves to the study of one side of mediumship only. The phenomena produced in the presence of mediums are various. All the phenomena classified as "psychical" must be carefully considered and thoroughly investigated. The grain must be separated from the chaff; it must be decided which among these phenomena appear to be due to spirits, which, according to the evidence, are due to incarnated minds, and finally, which (if there are such) have only ordinary physical causes. The new workmen who are entering the field of science have before them a long task of clearing the ground, but the ground seems to be of unexampled fertility; with a very little goodwill we shall reap such a harvest as has never been seen.

No doubt, though mediums able to produce certain second-rate phenomena are not rare, good mediums are not easy to discover; they are less rare, however, than the bones of _Anthropopithecus erectus_. When a good medium is discovered it is not necessary to call a committee together and put the value he may have for science to the vote. If the "other world" exists, it appears that no "missing link" exists between it and our own.

Thus the general conclusion to be drawn from the work described in this little book, and from the other work of the Society for Psychical Research, is that devotion to these studies is far from being fruitless.

Even official science might turn in this direction, if only in order to defend the doctrines dear to it. It will come to that, without doubt, but will it be soon? Humanity is but poor stuff, though the monists do not hesitate to hold it up to us as the highest expression in our corner of space of the consciousness of their great god Pan. The great majority of human units is composed of minds in first childhood, eager only for childish things.

By slightly modifying Plato's allegory it is easy to arrive at an understanding of the state of humanity at the present time. Imagine very imperfect, very undeveloped beings, possessing, however, an infinity of latent potentialities; imagine them born in a dark cavern where they swarm pell-mell, passing their time chiefly in devouring one another.

Every moment this cavern is entered, and a certain number of these poor beings are taken out of it and carried into the light of day, that they may enjoy a higher life, and admire the beauties of nature. Those remaining in the cavern weep for their companions and think that they have for ever vanished. But in the vault of the cavern there are fissures through which a little light filters. A few inquisitive beings, a little more developed than their brothers, climb up to these fissures; they look out, and believe that signs are made to them from outside. They say to themselves, "Those who are making signs to us are perhaps the companions who are constantly being carried off from amongst us; in that case they cannot be dead; they must be continuing to live up there." And they call to their brothers below, "Come and see; it looks as if our companions who go up yonder every day are making signs to us.

We are not sure; but if we unite our efforts and intelligences perhaps we shall end by being certain." Do you suppose that the swarms on the ground of the cave will run? They have quite other things to do. They do not stone the importunate seekers, but they look on them askance and heap annoyances upon them. But we will drop allegory; and merely say how deplorable it is that psychical studies do not inspire more enthusiasm.

The doctors at first declared that mediumship was a form of neurosis.

Nothing is less certain; I will even say that nothing is less probable.

Educated people of independent social position when by chance they discover that they possess mediumistic gifts hide them carefully, instead of offering them spontaneously for study; they do not wish to be supposed to be diseased; nobody likes to proclaim his defects in public.

This is why well-known mediums are nearly all recruited from the lower classes and the poor; they are obliged to make merchandise of their gifts; they are paid to produce phenomena, and, when these do not occur spontaneously, they cheat. Mediums should be sought for in the class of educated people who are not obliged to work for their daily bread.

There are as many or more in this class as in any other if we would only look for them. What should such mediums fear? Do not Mlle. Smith and Mrs Piper, when they allow competent persons to study their mediumship, render more valuable services to society than do so many social encumbrances, so many flies on the wheel who deafen us with their buzzing? Have they any reason to be ashamed?

Finally, in order to attain to any result in these studies, money is needed--why not say so? Interesting subjects must be paid when they need payment, and competent investigators must be paid when they need a salary. If a thousandth part of the sum devoted in a year to the art of killing were devoted to the solution of this problem, before ten years were over we should have settled the question, and humanity could boast an unexampled victory.

In America and all the Anglo-Saxon countries many persons, as noble as they are generous, give for science, for universal instruction, for founding universities and colleges. May they be blessed! They make a noble use of their money. But it is regrettable that as much money as is needed can be found for the search after--let us say--the _Anthropopithecus erectus_, and that it cannot be found for Psychical Research.

If I am not mistaken, a prize has been offered to whoever can find the means of communicating with the planet Mars. If this communication were ever established, I do not see how humanity would benefit by it, beyond the satisfaction of its curiosity; which is, however, a noble and legitimate curiosity. But how much more helpful and interesting it would be to communicate with the world beyond the grave, if such a world there be, the world whither we are all bound. Perhaps some time mankind will realise this fact.

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