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houn gives something like a definition of superstition, in which the spi-
in name and character. Among the followers of Zeroaster, the presidinggenius was Ahriman. During the prevalence of witchcraft in Europe, the Devil and subordinate demons, were the patrons of enchantments, and all magical charms. A good deal of our popular superstitions, our elves and fairies, have been handed down to us by our heathen forefathers. In tracing the stream of superstition down from the remotest times, we find that there was a constant assertion of a certain class of supernatural phenomena, while the mode of explaining these, varied according to the changing theories of the super-sensible world. Ahriman, Satan, Obi, were called in to explain the phenomena according to the prevailing beliefs. Now, we hold that the agency called in by mesmerism is of a piece with the above. At the the time of Mesmer, the old superstitions were becoming effete; the light of science and the general progress of intelligence were throwing discredit upon the achievements usually ascribed to Satan and his subordinate agents, and the whole fabric of su perstition was threatening to crumble in the dust. The merit of Mesmer lies in rescuing it from such a fate, by evoking a new demon more in accordance with the sceptical and scientific spirit of the times. To this demon, spirit, or power, he gave the name of fluid, and to invest it still further with the air of science he called it a magnetic fluid. More recently Baron Reichenbach has laboured strenuously to invest superstition still more closely with the garb of science; and the spirit which he has evoked he calls Od. This arch-demon has a great many subordinate spirits supposed to preside over the various departments of nature. For example, the spirit that he calls Biod presides over the phenomena of life. Astrod has assigned to him the influence of the stars on the destinies of man. Od represents very well the Hindoo Brahm, and the subordinate Ods the various manifestations of Brahm. Reichenbach does not indeed call Od a spirit,-he speaks of it merely as a force. We must decide what kind of force it is by the effects ascribed to it, and the superstitious character of it does not at all depend on whether it is a spiritual or a physical force. The idea of Satan in most cases of witchcraft would be satisfied by the definition of this spirit as a force capable of producing physical phenomena. Now, the effects ascribed to Od, in the higher phenomena of mesmerism, far more imperatively demand that the efficient agency should be a spiritual being. For example, take the gift of prophecy conferred by Od. This power exercised by Od is not one that can be ascribed to a fluid or a physical force. Granting the existence of Od, and judging of it by the effects ascribed to it by believers, we must necessarily come to the conclusion that it is a spirit. The Od of mesmerism is just the Satan of witchcraft, dressed up in the old clothes of science. The one is just as hypothetical as the other, and of the two, Od is by far the least philosophical. The congruity between Satan and the works assigned him is far greater than that between Od and his feats. When a professed witch tells the fortune of any applicant, she professes to deal with a spiritual and intelligent being. The mesmerist on the other hand speaks of Od, by whose power he accomplished the same feat, as a fluid. Now we assert that in this, witchcraft is far more philosophical than mesmerism.
It is the prestige of science claimed by mesmerism that deludes the
unthinking multitude. Were the naked supernatural pretensions of mesmerism presented to the public, they would shrink from them as the superstition of a dark age. But their minds are wonderfully reconciled to them, while the idea is carefully impressed upon them, that mesmerism affords a scientific solution. But of the many who believe that it furnishes a key, few think of ascertaining whether the key fits. A popular knowledge of the facts of science is widely diffused at the present day; but the philosophic spirit which views these facts in connection. with higher laws, and can apply the test of general laws to any alleged fact, is a rare possession. A signal illustration of this was afforded some years ago, when a very clever hoax was practised on the public. A letter, purporting to come from Sir John Herschel at the Cape, gave an account of some wonderful discoveries in the moon. The winged inhabitants, with their habits and modes of locomotion, were minutely described, and the public press gave general currency to it as a veracious story. Even well informed people, who were familiar with the facts of astronomy, were taken in. The mere detached facts of the science did not furnish them with the means of detecting the hoax; whereas a slight acquaintance with the laws regulating the constitution of the moon, would at once reveal the deception. Now it is the same incapacity to connect alleged facts with general laws, that have laid so many open to the belief of mesmerism. The position of the mesmerist is, given the law of the Od force, the miracles of clairvoyance, prophecy, &c., flow as a necessary sequence. The popular mind, with a superstitious reverence for science, never enquires whether the facts follow from the law. It takes the law for granted, and the facts are passed without due examination when they have the label of science upon them. Now we assert, that though we should grant the Od force as described by Reichenbach, or the Animal Magnetism of Mesmer, there is no logical connection between that force and the alleged phenomena. The one does not follow as individual cases from a general law. The one being given, the other has not its credibility in the least degree increased. When a clairvoyante asserts, as in one of the cases given by Gregory, that she actually sees Mary Queen of Scots in the past, or when the Poughkeepsie seer, asserts that he can read the books of the inhabitants of the planet Neptune, these feats are not in the least made more credible, by being ascribed to the Od force. Granting that there is a force which manifests itself by flames from the poles of a magnet, and from the operator's nose and fingers, this throws no light whatever on the asserted facts. We cannot see how a person, by having a lambent flame at the extremity of the nose, should be enabled to read a book in the outermost planet of the system. Some mesmerists who see this absurdity, will turn round and say, We stand altogether upon the facts of the case; we may not be able to explain them by the aid of Od, but this does not alter their reality—we may not be able to explain how a man reads with the pit of his stomach or his great toe; how he can see through a solid wall; how he can detect the thoughts of others in the process of secretion from the brain; but these are, nevertheless, facts, and on this ground we take our stand, dis. pute the facts if you can.-Now this is precisely the point to which we
wish our opponents to come. We wish them to throw off the pretence of science, and to admit that they only reiterate the alleged facts of magic and witchcraft current in every age of the world. If the question was clearly understood to be a mere matter of evidence, there would be an end of the matter. The world has sifted the superstitious beliefs of former times, and has been gradually outgrowing them, just as the child outgrows the fairy tales of the nursery; and the superstitions of mesmerism would not be for a moment listened to, if it claimed a hearing merely on the ground of its having new facts and new stories to tell. It has been listened to solely on the ground of its scientific pretensionssolely because it professes to offer an explanation. But we see that the mesmerist, when pressed hard to produce the alleged key, takes refuge in the facts which the past experience of the world has pronounced pure superstition.
We would by no means oppose the higher phenomena of mesmerism on the ground of impossibility. We consider them in the highest degree improbable, but there is no degree of improbability which may not be removed by trustworthy testimony. If there is no contradiction in the alleged facts, the improbability, however great, may always be counterbalanced by a certain amount of testimony. The formulæ of Babbage shew how very small a number of witnesses is necessary to prove a miracle,—a moderate estimate being taken of their trustworthiness on the subject on which they testify. In the progress of science, the most startling discoveries are received without the slightest suspicion, though they should be verified only by a single witness. Take, for example, the remarkable facts of diamagnetism discovered by Faraday. This discovery was in opposition to our previous notions of magnetic phenomena, yet when Faraday announced it, there was an instant belief wrought in every scientific mind. There was no need of appointing a committee to repeat the experiments and report. His own individual report settled the matter in the eyes of the whole scientific world. There were all the marks of trustworthiness in his experiments, and the facts were so made to harmonise with the recognised laws of magnetic action, that conviction was at once brought home to every mind. There is no disposition at the present day to reject alleged discoveries merely on the ground of improbability. The daily triumphs of science are so marvellous, that the tendency is all the other way. The popular mind is willing to give too ready a credence to any achievement performed in the name of science. It is plain then, that if the evidence tendered by the mesmerist, in support of his higher phenomena, were at all feasible, there is no prejudice against its candid reception. These phenomena are rejected almost unanimously by those whose minds have received a scientific discipline, solely on the ground that they are not supported by trustworthy testimony. The veracity of the witnesses may be unimpeached, but the sources of delusion and error are so obvious, that the testimony is entirely vitiated.
Some of the legitimate deductions of science are as startling at first sight as the alleged higher phenomena of mesmerism; but the reference to the higher law at once removes all doubt. Let us take, for illustration, the fact, that if we were situated in a star so distant, that light takes six
thousand years to travel towards it from our planet, we would, in turning our eyes towards paradise, see (supposing our vision sufficiently acute,) our first parents walking there in innocence. To one who has never reflected on the subject, this assertion would appear a monstrous improbability; but were he capable of understanding the consequences of the motion of light, he would, on being referred to this law, at once have his doubt removed. He would see that the alleged fact was indeed comprehended in the more general fact, that light occupies time in travelling from one body to another. This is what we call a scientific explanation, and what we would desiderate in mesmerism. But it affords no such explanation. It asserts facts violently improbable from defect of testimony, and totally unsupported by any recognised law in nature. In a former article we gave an account of a remarkable feat performed by the great transatlantic reviver of mesmerism in this country, and the authority for the most valuable of the mesmeric stories related by Professor Gregory. We saw with our own eyes a man, who was stretched on the floor, raised seven or eight feet in the air, apparently by merely stroking with the fingers and blowing with the mouth. Now this feat was witnessed by several hundred well informed witnessess, whose veracity could not be doubted, and who, we have no doubt, would be ready to testify to the reality of the performance. We again repeat that this admirably illustrative case is destitute of the two characteristics above alluded to of a genuine scientific fact. It was not supported by sufficient testimony. The witnesses were numerous enough, but the sources of mal-observation were so obvious that number could not compensate for quality. It is no easy thing to observe the most familiar occurrence with scientific precision, from the confounding of inferences with the mere objective facts. On this point, Dugald Stewart says, "The simplest narrative of the most illiterate observer contains more or less of hypothesis ; nay, in general, it will be found that in proportion to his ignorance, the greater is the number of the conjectural principles involved in his statements. A village apothecary (and, if possible, in a still higher degree, an experienced nurse,) is seldom able to describe the plainest case without employing a phraseology of which every word is a theory; whereas a simple and general specification of the phenomena which mark a particular disease-a specification unsophisticated by fancy, or by preconceived opinions,-may be regarded as unequivocal evidence of a mind trained by long and successful study to the most difficult of all arts, that of the faithful interpretation of nature." Keeping this principle in view, it is easy to understand why we should assign but small weight to the testimony of the many respectable individuals who saw the above trick performed. They would, no doubt, solemnly aver that they saw the man raised by the stroking of the fingers and the blowing with the mouth; but we would attribute this to mal-observation, and to their confounding a fact with an inference. The above case was also destitute of the second characteristic to which we have referred. It did not appeal to any higher law which would afford an explanation, as in the case of the motion of light. No doubt the blowing and stroking were assigned as the efficient cause, but then there was no scientific law which connected the two things together. It is true that the constitution of nature might