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" Uncle Tom" is driven from the field at last , one is thankful to find , and " everybody /* in a larger sense than the word usually represents , is occupied with table-moving . The delusion , we prophecy , ' will not last long , but it will not have been without its service to the cause of philosophy , telling so emphatically , as it does , of the extreme facility with which men accept evidence , and the fatal facility with which they draw rash inferences and accept crude hypotheses . There is quite a " tablemoving" literature springing up . The German and French papers are
constantly inserting articles on the subject . La Presse , in its scientific feuilleton , adopts the electrical hypothesis ; and a M . Kxeplin has addressed a memoir to the Academie des Sciences , on Vinfluence de Vaction vitale et meme de la volonte sur la matiere inerte j nay—most serious sign of all—Carus , the venerable physiologist , has addressed a similar memoir to the Belgian Academy . We learn this , however , in a very suspicious quarter—viz ., in a pamphlet published by F . Silas , called La Danse des Tables , and trust that it is a fiction .
At all events , the thing assumes a serious aspect , and those of our friends who remonstrate with us on devoting so much space to so monstrous a delusion , do not understand the office of journalism in the way we understand it . If only for its philosophic applications we should notice the delusion ; but when it becomes an extensive , almost universal , delusion , setting up scientific pretensions , and claiming the authority of scientific names , we are more than ever bound to take it in hand . In Germany tables not only dance but prophecy ! A pamphlet before
us , Table qui danse , et Table qui repond , ( which , by the way , has excited the attention of the very highest personage in our realm ) narrates a variety of experiences , some of which we ourselves read in the German papers , with the attested signatures of Hoffmann von Fallersleben , Schade , Neusser , Karl Simrock , and others , wherein not only did the table move and dance , but was ready to reply by raps to any question which was put to it , trivial , or important , relating to the past , present , or future . A table which tells what its original cost was , and what its present value
—a table which prophecies when Dr . Jschade is to be married , and tells Hoffmann von Fallersleben when he was born—is certainly a phenomenon of electrical influence sufficiently novel ! But does it not at once strike the candid reader that when facts , such as these , can be recorded on evidence so " respectable , "—when absurdities so glaring can be repeated with such gravity , and by people of distinction too , the question of " evidence , " respectable and otherwise , becomes singularly complicated , and a certain caution in accepting " reported cases" becomes indispensable ? Good faith does not constitute good evidence . The respectability and sincerity of a witness can only have weight in moral evidence . Our correspondent M . P . K . has tried to test the value of our explanation , and in perfect good faith conceives il to have failed : —
Sir , —In my first letter on the " Key Revolutions , " I seo I have com nutted myself in expression to a belief in Spirit Hupping ; which I must qualify to : i belief in its possibility . To resume . Our first successful experiments had amazed my co-operator and myself into a thorough attention and earnest desire to ascertain the truth of the novel revelations , and amongst the results were those which your suggestion of muscular action cannot meet , and which , if they are more than happy coincidences or lucky turnings , they more than disprove . For instance , I wished to ascertain the month and day of the birthday of a gentleman present ( not my co-operator ) , with which I was unacquainted . The book turned correctly . His brother ( not present ) , correct . Another ( not present ) , wrong . Our attention was thoroughly awakened , and if the force moving the key was something resembling
electricity , it must have been powerfully flowing then . At all events , with the exception of this wrong answer , all were true during this long scries of questions ; and amongst the latter were about twenty , as to tho sex of the next passer-by ( which no one in the room could be aware of ) , and the week-day and day of the week of tho death of a gentleman deceased , known certainly to one person only present , and be a bystander . Again ; at the question so oft repeated , in so many various ways , by the fair sex in our days , us in thoso gone by : " li . y whom am 1 liked ? " the book invariably , with one lady , turned at certain initials , and the answer at first surprised , but afterwards suggested a reminiscence not expected , and certainly on second turning not willed . Two who , as I before stated , caused the book to turn at oilier questions , failed altogether in this , although 1 know they
strongly willed that it should turn at certain initials , // ' those wen : true ; but no " muscular action attendant on expectant attention , " produced the wished for and expected result . To tost whether it was muscular action or that which we . will term the unknown force as you object to tlm galvanic force being higged in to describe something it may , if existing , only resemble—I plaeed my forefinger , as tin ; book was turning , on tho shoulder of one of two operators , neither deeply versed in the laws or phenomena of electricity , and the current being , as we will assume , diverted , the book instantly stopped . Thin , you will say , arrested their
attention , and induced a cessation of the muscular action or tendency to movement . I p laced the forefinger of each hand on ( restoring the current , if current thorn was ) , nnd the book again moved . This was a simple plun of testing , and the result favourable . Hut , independently of this , if heavy tables did not move , wo mig ht , receive your suggestion or theory of muscular action , as the slig htest tendency to inovement is sutlicient with the ' key , but that that action can . in . sen . siUi / to the operators , move such substances as are publicly stated to be set . in rapid motion , requires a larger amount of credulity than I can suppose even the Spirit ; Rapists possess . Oh the third day's experiment 1 did what you subsequently
HugKostedwilled that the book should not move unless an independent force I could not counteract moved it in spite of me . The illogical conclusion you suggested would arrive in consequence occurred to my mind , when I found the took did not turn . The apparently frail ladder by which I had imagined myself to have rapidly attained or arrived at heights from whence fair fields of further discovery could bo calmly surveyed , seemed to break from under mo , and I was precipitated more rapidly into an abyss of doubt , from which escape appeared very difficult . Had I called reason to my assistance , the fall need not have taken place on account of that result . I had deprived myself—if my assumptive theory were true—of the main condition of success—had deserted my own premises , and the result , instead of being disproof , was only proof ( assuming that the book did tarn by an unknown agency , and that not a muscular or physical one ) that that agency was subservient
to , and could only operate when the will was directed to its assistance . For the sake of argument only , and taking it for granted , for the same reason , that Spirit Comnmnications are possible by such means , here the agent employed would be a force communicable from one human being to another , to be acted upon b y a second unknown cause or agency , the first force or current strongly flowing with the harmonious and earnest will of both operators that the book should turn at the true answer , that answer being known to an operator or not . Repeated questions were asked and answered correctly where the will was not specifically in favour ; in fact , in some instances against the wish , although , if we can draw the distinction , with the will willing the answer to be the truth , and without expectant attention being raised . In several of the turnings the self-interested inquirers could have wished there to be a turning when none came . Subsequent experiments , whether from want of earnestness or from the doubt- induced by the Rasselian fall , were in some cases only confirmatory , in others most decided failures . Other persons may be more favourable and favoured media . To them I
bequeath further experiments . I have had one ( imaginary we will call it ) trip to spirit land , and as my wings seem to Lave lost their power , let others try the flight . To conclude with an objection to a question of yours . When we are professedly dealing with results whose cause it is admitted are beyond present knowledge , it is rather unreasonable to ask , " Did it know your thoughts ? " and the answer can only be a conjectural plagiarism on . the immortal Topsy : " Specks it did . " I may add that epileptic fits , clairvoyance , &c , said to be induced by repeated experiments in table-moving , are , if true , ( and you must use assumption in these inquiries , ) evidence that it is a force which passes from the human both " , depriving it , if unduly exerted , of its proper amount of nervotis energy . If the theory of the existence of this force or current be correct , your scepticism in table-moving would , I take it , be sufficient to break the current of communication . In these experiments , when the table moves , let one not in the chain place his forefinger on the shoulder of one engaged , and see the result . M . P . R-
When M . P . R . was vigilantly passive , the book did not turn ; he agrees with us , that the cause of this cessation was the cessation of his volition ; he agrees with us that volition is an " indispensable condition ; " and yet he denies that it is the influence of volition on the muscles ! he prefers the wild and gratuitous hypothesis of an unknown something , on which the volition operates , making it operate on the book ! With the myriad examples of volition acting through the muscles , he is not content—nothing but some new , unknown , unnecessaiy agent , will suffice ! Thus , rather than accept an explanation which classes the phenomenon under the same head as thousands of well-ascertained phenomena , he prefers imagining the existence of a new agent , that agent conscious and intelligent , ( and intelligent of things the experimenters themselves do not know , ) whose office is intern uncial between the will and the hook !
If the moving depends upon muscular action , it will , of course , vary , as the action itself varies . The persons who can move the table to-day , will fail to-morrow . But if it depended upon electricity , that physical agent would produce invariable results , as every dabbler in science knows . We also suggest , for the consideration of believers , that the notorious fact of women and children being more successful than men—impressionable poetic people more than analytical sceptical people , tells very much in favour of the musculur—and very much against the electrical theory . If the brain is a galvanic battery , and the table be moved by galvanic force , the larger the brains of the operators the more easily should the table move ; but the reverse of this is the result of experiments : small-brained women and children are more successful than large-brained men . One brief note from Dr . AVyi . d may be here inserted : —
Slit , —My attention having been drawn to a communication , in your last number , regarding " Table Moving , " perhaps you will permit me to add to that communication the following remarks , in corroboration . As a supporter of homoeopathy , I was present at ; the homoeopathic soiree which took place in Willis ' s Rooms , on tho IKl . h hist . In one of the side roomn , I found Rome gentlemen operating very successfully , in revolving n table , of about four feet diameter . I requested to be permitted to join in the " magic circle , " but , after waiting patiently for about ten minutes , and no movement being perceptible , I began gently to press with my fingers , in tho direction we bad agreed that tho table Hbould move , viz ., from right to left , whereupon the table immediately began to revolve , to the delight and tenor of the operators . I then pressed in the opposite direction , when t , he table immediately eanio to a dead halt , and there stood . This experiment I repeated several times , with c <) iial success , and then explained tho mystery to my assistants of the " niugie ring . "
Now , in this case , it in very evident that the rotation was caused by tho nniflculiu- force of the twenty bands resting upon the table , —this force being , on my part , voluntary , although , prob . ibly , on the part of my assistants , quite involuntary , and it is evident that , a very small otlbrt , multiplied by twenty hands , In quite adequate to move any ordinary table . Now , although when I reflect upon the experiments of Faraday , with roferenco to ilia-magnetism , I am inclined to believe that we have there a force very closel y treading upon the heels of " magical powers , " nnd am therefore ) not , indispoHcd to credit the possibility of the laws of gravity being under some such inllueneo , temporally overcome , still , it is evident to me , ho fur as 1 have seen and heard , that ninety-nine—if not one- hundred onsen out of tho hundred iuHlnnccH of " table
OriticB are not the legislators , hut the judges and police of literature . They do not make laws—they interpret and try to enforcethem . — EdinburghBevietc .
May 28 , 1853 . ] THE LEADER , 523 - *¦ •*' - ' ii ~ -
Leader (1850-1860), May 28, 1853, page 523, in the Nineteenth-Century Serials Edition (2008; 2018) ncse.ac.uk/periodicals/l/issues/vm2-ncseproduct1988/page/19/