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(1.) The beholder himself, (e.g. “Fetches" or "Doubles.”)
(2.) Other men, recognized or not.
(i.) Before their death, (e.g. "Second-Sight.")
(b.) To several persons.
(ii.) At the moment of their death.
(b.) To several persons.
1. In the same place.
2. In several places.
(iii.) After their death. In connection with
2. Evil deeds.
(b.) Particular times, (e.g. on the anniversary of any event, or at fixed seasons.)
(c.) Particular events, (e.g. before calamity or death.) (d.) Particular persons, (e.g. haunted murderers.)
Shapes" falling under neither of the former classes.
(i.) Particular families, (e.g. the "Banshee.")
(i.) Visions signifying events, past, present, or future.
(ii.) Visions of a fantastical nature.
IV. Dreams remarkable for coincidences
(i.) To the same person several times.
(2.) With facts
(a.) Previously unknown.
(b.) Formerly known, but forgotten.
(ii.) Present, but unknown.
V. Feelings. A definite consciousness of a fact
(1.) Past,-an impression that an event has happened.
VI. Physical effects.
(i.) With the use of ordinary means, (e.g. ringing of bells.) (ii.) Without the use of any apparent means, (e.g. voices.) (2.) Impressions of touch, (e.g. breathings on the person.)
Every narrative of "supernatural" agency which may be communicated will be rendered far more instructive if accompanied by any particulars as to the observer's natural temperament, (e.g. sanguine, nervous, &c.,) constitution, (e.g. subject to fever, somnambulism, &c., and state at the time, (e.g. excited in mind or body, &c.)
Communications may be addressed to
Rev. B. F. WESTCOTT, Harrow, Middlesex,
VIEW TAKEN OF IT BY TWO OPPOSING SCHOOLS.
SINCE the foregoing pages were in type, I have received, and perused with much pleasure, a pamphlet, just published in London and Edinburgh, entitled "Testimony: its Posture in the Scientific World," by ROBERT CHAMBERS, F.R.S. E., F.A.S., &c., being the first of a series of "Edinburgh papers," to be issued by that vigorous thinker,—a man who has contributed as much, perhaps, as any other now living, to the dissemination of useful information among the masses throughout the civilized world. Not the least valuable contribution is this very pamphlet.
Mr. Chambers reviews the posture of two schools of philosophy in regard to the force of testimony: the physicists, of whom Mr. Faraday is the type; and the mental and moral philosophers, represented by Abercrombie and Chalmers.
The first, he reminds us, taking into view "the extreme fallaciousness of the human senses," will admit no evidence of any extraordinary natural fact which is not " absolutely incapable of being explained away." If the physicist can presume any error in the statement, he is bound to reject it. "Practically," (Chambers adds,) "all such facts are rejected; for there is, of course, no extraordinary fact resting upon testimony alone, of which it is not possible to presume some error in the observation or reporting, if we set about finding one." (p. 2.)
Thus, Mr. Faraday, “defending the skepticism of his class," argues that there is no trusting our senses, unless the judgment has been largely cultivated for their guidance." He speaks as if there were a bare possibility that a man not regularly trained to scientific observation should see facts truly at all.
Not so Abercrombie or Chalmers. The great Scottish theologian "professes to walk by the Baconian philosophy. He acknowledges that knowledge can only be founded on observation, and that we learn by descending to the sober work of seeing and feeling and experimenting.' He prefers what has been seen by one pair of eyes' to all reasoning and guessing. . . He does not propose that we only receive the marvelous facts of Scripture if we cannot explain them away. He does not ask us to start with a clear understanding of what is possible or impossible. . . . What he requires of us on entering into any department of inquiry,' as the best preparation, is a very different thing: namely, 'that docility of mind which is founded on a sense of our total ignorance of the subject.' "*
"No contrast," Chambers continues, “could well be more complete. In the one case, testimony regarding assumedly natural, though novel, facts and occurrences, is treated with a rigor which would enable us to battle off any thing whatever that we did not wish to receive, if it could not be readily subjected to experiment, or immediately shown in a fresh instance,-and perhaps even then. In the other, the power and inclination of men to observe correctly any palpable fact, and report it truly, is asserted without exception or reserve. It is plain that one or other of these two views of testimony must be wholly, or in a great degree, erroneous, as they are quite at issue with each other. It becomes of importance, both with a regard to our progress in philosophy and our code of religious beliefs, to ascertain which it is that involves the greatest amount of truth." (p. 6.)
As to the effect, in every-day life, of adopting the scientific view of testimony, he says, "Just suppose, for a moment, that every fact reported to us by others were viewed in the light of the skeptical system, as to the fallaciousness of the senses and the tendency to selfdeception. Should we not from that moment be at a stand-still in all the principal movements of our lives? Could a banker ever discount a bill? Could a merchant believe in a market-report? Could the politician put any trust in the genealogy of the monarch? Could we rest with assurance upon any legal deed or document heretofore thought essential to the maintenance of property? Could evidence for the condemnation of the most audacious and dangerous criminal be obtained? Each geologist distrusting his neighbor as to the actuality of the find of fossils in certain strata, what would be the progress of that science? Could we, with any face, ask the young
* Pamphlet cited, p. 6. The italics, throughout, are as Chambers has them.
to believe in a single fact of history, or geography, or any science concerned in education? What could be more seriously inconvenient to mortals, short of the withdrawal of the sun from the firmament, than the abstraction of this simple principle from the apparatus of social life, that we can all tolerably well apprehend the nature of an event or fact presented to our senses, and give a fair representation of it in words afterward?
I must also make bold to say that the skeptical view appears to me out of harmony with the inductive philosophy. Bacon gives us many warnings against preconceived opinions and prejudices; but he does not bid us despair of ascertaining facts from our own senses and from testimony. He laments that there is an impediment in the acquisition of knowledge from the sense of sight being unable to penetrate the spiritual operation in tangible bodies;'* but he nowhere tells us that sight is so fallacious that we require a corrective power to assure us that we have really seen any thing." (p. 8.)
Adverting to Faraday's axiom, that we must set out with clear ideas of the possible and impossible, Chambers shrewdly remarks, "This skeptical method consists very much in vicious circles. You cannot know whether a fact be a fact till you have ascertained the laws of nature in the case; and you cannot know the laws of nature till you have ascertained facts. You must not profess to have learned any thing till you have ascertained if it be possible; and this you cannot ascertain till you have learned every thing." (p. 9.)
The whole pamphlet is singularly logical, as well as practical in tendency, and will well repay a perusal. Unable, for lack of space, much further to extend my extracts from it, I must not omit to quote entire the concluding paragraph, strictly bearing, as it does, on the respect which should be shown, and the credit which may properly be accorded, to those classes of facts which it is the object of this work to place before the public. Chambers says,
"If I have here given a true view of human testimony, it will follow that, among the vast multitude of alleged things often heard of and habitually rejected, there are many entitled to more respect than they ordinarily receive. It is a strange thought, but possibly some truths may have been knocking at the door of human faith for thousands of years, and are not destined to be taken in for many yet to come,—or, at the utmost, may long receive but an unhonoring sanction from the vulgar and obscure, all owing to this principle of skepticism, that facts are value
* Novum Organum, Book I. aphorism 50.