Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

fourteen are the third and expanded reprint. The hour had come for successfully assailing certain already shaking prejudices of the reading public. The Selbstschau of Zschokke, and the researches of Von Reichenbach, were in the hands of the literary and philosophic. The seer-gift of the former (see Letter IV.) had established the fact that one mind can enter into direct though one-sided communion with another. The undenied Od-force of the latter (see Letter I.) is evidently the same influence with that, the first crude announcement of which, by Mesmer, had scared the world into disbelief. It had now become possible to explain ghostly warnings, and popular prophecies, the wonders of natural trance, and of animal magnetism, without having recourse to a single unproven principle. I therefore made the attempt ; other more efficient labourers have co-operated in the same object ; and public opinion is no longer hostile to this class of inquiries.

BAD WEILBACH, near MAYENCE,

1st August 1851.

CONTENTS

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

ON POPULAR SUPERSTITIONS

LETTER I

THE DIVINING-ROD. Description of and mode of using the same

Mr Fairholm's statement M. de Tristan's statement-Account of
Von Reichenbach's Od force—The Author's own observations.

DEAR ARCHY,-As a resource in the solitary evenings of commencing winter, it occurred to me to look into the long-neglected lore of the marvellous, the mystical, the supernatural. I remembered the deep awe with which I had listened, many a year ago, to tales of seers, ghosts,

vampyrs, and all the dark brood of night. And I thought · it would be infinitely agreeable to thrill again with mys

terious terrors, to start in my chair at the closing of a distant door, to raise my eyes with uneasy apprehension towards the mirror opposite, and to feel my skin creep through the sensible " afflatus” of an invisible presence. I entered, accordingly, upon a very promising course of appalling reading. But, a-lack and well-aday! a change had come over me since the good old times when fancy, with fear and superstition behind her, would creep on tiptoe to catch a shuddering glimpse of Kobbold, Fay, or Incubus. Vain were all my efforts to

revive the pleasant horrors of earlier years: it was as if I bad planned going to a play to enjoy again the full gusto of scenic illusion, and, through absence of mind, was attending a morning rehearsal only; when, instead of what I had anticipated, great-coats, hats, umbrellas, and ordinary men and women, masks, tinsel, trap-doors, pulleys, and a world of intricate machinery, lit by a partial gleam of sunshine, had met my view. The enchantment was no longer there--the spell was broken.

Yet, on second thoughts, the daylight scene was worth contemplating. A new object, of stronger interest, suggested itself. I might examine and learn the mechanism of the illusions which had failed to furnish me the projected entertainment. In the books I had looked into, I discerned a clue to the explanation of many wonderful stories, which I could hitherto only seriously meet by disbelief. I saw that phenomena, which before had appeared isolated, depended upon a common principle, itself allied with a variety of other singular facts and observations, which wanted only to be placed in philosophical juxtaposition to be recognised as belonging to science. So I determined to employ the leisure before me upon an inquiry into the amount of truth in popular superstitions, certain that, if the attempt were not premature, the labour would be well repaid. There must be a real foundation for the belief of ages. There can be no prevalent delusion without a corresponding truth. The visionary promises of alchemy foreshadowed the solid performances of modern chemistry, as the debased worship of the Egyptians implied the existence of a proper object of worship.

Among the immortal productions of the Scottish Shakspeare-you smile, but that phrase contains the true belief, not a popular delusion; for the spirit of the poet lives not in the form of his works, but in his creative

« AnteriorContinuar »