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Occultism and Common-Sense   By: (1869-1942)

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First Page:

OCCULTISM AND COMMON SENSE

BY BECKLES WILLSON

WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY PROF. W. F. BARRETT, F.R.S.

Past President of the Society for Psychical Research

LONDON T. WERNER LAURIE CLIFFORD'S INN E.C.

CONTENTS

INTRODUCTION VII

I. SCIENCE'S ATTITUDE TOWARDS THE "SUPERNATURAL"

II. THE HYPNOTIC STATE

III. PHANTASMS OF THE LIVING

IV. DREAMS

V. HALLUCINATIONS

VI. PHANTASMS OF THE DEAD

VII. ON "HAUNTINGS" AND KINDRED PHENOMENA

VIII. THE DOWSING OR DIVINING ROD

IX. MEDIUMISTIC PHENOMENA

X. MORE PHYSICAL PHENOMENA

XI. THE MATERIALISATION OF "GHOSTS"

XII. SPIRIT PHOTOGRAPHY

XIII. CLAIRVOYANCE

XIV. MRS PIPER'S TRANCE UTTERANCES

AFTERWORD

NOTE

The following chapters, together with Professor Barrett's comment thereupon, which now figures as an Introduction, originally appeared in the columns of The Westminster Gazette .

INTRODUCTION

By Professor W. F. Barrett, F.R.S.

Those of us who took part in the foundation of the Society for Psychical Research were convinced from personal investigation and from the testimony of competent witnesses that, amidst much illusion and deception, there existed an important body of facts, hitherto unrecognised by science, which, if incontestably established, would be of supreme interest and importance.

It was hoped that by applying scientific methods to their systematic investigation these obscure phenomena might eventually be rescued from the disorderly mystery of ignorance; (but we recognised that this would be a work, not of one generation but of many.) Hence to preserve continuity of effort it was necessary to form a society, the aim of which should be, as we stated at the outset, to bring to bear on these obscure questions the same spirit of exact and unimpassioned inquiry which has enabled science to solve so many problems once not less obscure nor less hotly debated. And such success as the society has achieved is in no small measure due to the wise counsel and ungrudging expenditure both of time and means which the late Professor Henry Sidgwick gave, and which Mrs Sidgwick continues to give, to all the details of its work.

Turning now to the author of the following pages, everyone must recognise the industry he has shown and the fairness of spirit he has endeavoured to maintain. With different groups of phenomena, the evidential value varies enormously. The testimony of honest and even careful witnesses requires to be received with caution, owing to the intrusion of two sources of error to which untrained observers are very liable. These are unconscious mal observation and unintentional mis description. I cannot here enter into the proof of this statement, but it is fully established. Oddly enough, not only a credulous observer but a cynical or ferocious sceptic is singularly prone to these errors when, for the first time, he is induced to investigate psychical phenomena which, in the pride of his superior intelligence, he has hitherto scorned. I could give some amusing illustrations of this within my own knowledge. For instance, a clever but critical friend who had frequently scoffed at the evidence for thought transference published in the "Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research," one day seriously informed me he had been converted to a belief in thought transference by some conclusive experiments he had witnessed. Upon inquiring where these experiments took place I found it was at a public performance of a very inferior Zancig who was then touring through the provinces!

Mr Beckles Willson frankly tells us that "the light heart and open mind" with which he set forth on his inquiry deserted him before he drew his labours to a close. For, entering upon the subject as a novice, he found himself unexpectedly confronted by the mass of evidence and the numerous and profoundly difficult problems which the Psychical Society have had to face. His conclusions are derived from a study of the available evidence, and this study has convinced him as it has convinced, so far as I know, every other painstaking and honest inquirer that no theories based on fraud, illusion, nor even on telepathy, are adequate to account for the whole of the phenomena he has reviewed... Continue reading book >>




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