Supernormal Appearances


"What are we to think of magic and witchcraft [to-day we would say 'occultism' and 'spiritism']? Their theory is obscure, their principles vague, uncertain, approaching the visionary; but—they are embarrassing facts, affirmed by grave men, who have seen them, or who have heard of them from persons like themselves; to admit them all, or to deny them all, seems equally embarrassing, and I dare to assert that in this, as in all extraordinary things which depend upon customary rules, there is a happy medium to be found between credulous souls and strong minds."

It is the voice of reason itself that the sagacious author of Les Caractères permits us to hear. We must, however, add that this "happy medium to be found" would not consist in a theory, a doctrine, a ready-made and entire system, from the height of which, as from a tribunal of arbitration, we would judge the "embarrassing cases" which reality places in the path of the seeker; for this system—however perfect it might be—would again be one more infallibility added to all those which already encumber the road to truth. The "happy medium" dreamed of by La Bruyère can be but a "method" always perfectible in its application and prejudging in nothing the results of investigation which go against the grain of the dogmatic points of view, equally authoritative and sterile, which characterize the two extremes of the "credulous souls" and "strong minds."

From India to the Planet Mars, by Théodore Flournoy; tr. Daniel B. Vermilye, (1900)

Psychic Ills, Sun Bath
Pocahaunted, Demon