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- The Making of Religion - 20/68 -
bronzed. Seven or eight Englishmen, in very light clothes, are standing on the road beside the boat.
'January 28, 1898.'
'A great black ship,' anchored in 'a river or lake,' naturally suggests the Suez Canal, where, in fact, Mr. Pembroke's brother was just arriving, as was proved by a letter received from him eight days after the experiment was recorded, on January 31. At that date Mr. Pembroke had not yet been told the nature of Miss Angus's crystal picture, nor had she any knowledge of his brother's whereabouts.
In February 1898, Miss Angus again came to the place where I was residing. We visited together the scene of an historical crime, and Miss Angus looked into the glass ball. It was easy for her to 'visualise' the incidents of the crime (the murder of Cardinal Beaton), for they are familiar enough to many people. What she did see in the ball was a tall, pale lady, 'about forty, but looking thirty-five,' with hair drawn back from the brows, standing beside a high chair, dressed in a wide farthingale of stiff grey brocade, without a ruff. The costume corresponds well (as we found) with that of 1546, and I said, 'I suppose it is Mariotte Ogilvy'--to whom Miss Angus's historical knowledge (and perhaps that of the general public) did not extend. Mariotte was the Cardinal's lady-love, and was in the Castle on the night before the murder, according to Knox. She had been in my mind, whence (on the theory of thought transference) she may have passed to Miss Angus's mind; but I had never speculated on Mariotte's costume. Nothing but conjecture, of course, comes of these apparently 'retrospective' pictures; though a most singular and picturesque coincidence occurred, which may be told in a very different connection.
The next example was noted at the same town. The lady who furnishes it is well known to me, and it was verbally corroborated by Miss Angus, to whom the lady, her absent nephew, and all about her, were entirely strange.
'VIII.--I was very anxious to know whether my nephew would be sent to India this year, so I told Miss Angus that I had thought of something, and asked her to look in the glass ball. She did so, but almost immediately turned round and looked out of the window at the sea, and said, "I saw a ship so distinctly I thought it must be a reflection." She looked in the ball again, and said, "It is a large ship, and it is passing a huge rock with a lighthouse on it. I can't see who are on the ship, but the sky is very clear and blue. Now I see a large building, something like a club, and in front there are a great many people sitting and walking about. I think it must be some place abroad, for the people are all dressed in very light clothes, and it seems to be very sunny and warm. I see a young man sitting on a chair, with his feet straight out before him. He is not talking to anyone, but seems to be listening to something. He is dark and slight, and not very tall; and his eyebrows are dark and very distinctly marked."
'I had not had the pleasure of meeting Miss Angus before, and she knew nothing whatever about my nephew; but the young man described was exactly like him, both in his appearance and in the way he was sitting.'
In this case thought transference may be appealed to. The lady was thinking of her nephew in connection with India. It is not maintained, of course, that the picture was of a prophetic character.
The following examples have some curious and unusual features. On Wednesday, February 2, 1897, Miss Angus was looking in the crystal, to amuse six or seven people whose acquaintance she had that day made. A gentleman, Mr. Bissett, asked her 'what letter was in his pocket,' She then saw, under a bright sky, and, as it were, a long way off, a large building, in and out of which many men were coming and going. Her impression was that the scene must be abroad. In the little company present, it should be added, was a lady, Mrs. Cockburn, who had considerable reason to think of her young married daughter, then at a place about fifty miles away. After Miss Angus had described the large building and crowds of men, some one asked, 'Is it an exchange?' 'It might be,' she said. 'Now comes a man in a great hurry. He has a broad brow, and short, curly hair; hat pressed low down on his eyes. The face is very serious; but he has a delightful smile.' Mr. and Mrs. Bissett now both recognised their friend and stockbroker, whose letter was in Mr. Bissett's pocket.
The vision, which interested Miss Angus, passed away, and was interrupted by that of a hospital nurse, and of a lady in a _peignoir_, lying on a sofa, _with bare feet_. Miss Angus mentioned this vision as a bore, she being more interested in the stockbroker, who seems to have inherited what was once in the possession of another stockbroker--'the smile of Charles Lamb.' Mrs. Cockburn, for whom no pictures appeared, was rather vexed, and privately expressed with freedom a very sceptical opinion about the whole affair. But, on Saturday, February 5, 1897, Miss Angus was again with Mr. and Mrs. Bissett. When Mrs. Bissett announced that she had 'thought of something,' Miss Angus saw a walk in a wood or garden, beside a river, under a brilliant blue sky. Here was a lady, very well dressed, twirling a white parasol on her shoulder as she walked, in a curious 'stumpy' way, beside a gentleman in light clothes, such as are worn in India. He was broad-shouldered, had a short neck and a straight nose, and seemed to listen, laughing, but indifferent, to his obviously vivacious companion. The lady had a 'drawn' face, indicative of ill health. Then followed a scene in which the man, without the lady, was looking on at a number of Orientals busy in the felling of trees. Mrs. Bissett recognised, in the lady, her sister, Mrs. Clifton, in India--above all, when Miss Angus gave a realistic imitation of Mrs. Clifton's walk, the peculiarity of which was caused by an illness some years ago. Mrs. and Mr. Bissett also recognised their brother-in-law in the gentleman seen in both pictures. On being shown a portrait of Mrs. Clifton as a girl, Miss Angus said it was 'like, but too pretty.' A photograph done recently, however, showed her 'the drawn face' of the crystal picture.
Next day, Sunday, February 6, Mrs. Bissett received, what was not usual--a letter from her sister in India, Mrs. Clifton, dated January 20. Mrs. Clifton described a place in a native State, where she had been at a great 'function,' in certain gardens beside a river. She added that they were going to another place for a certain purpose, 'and then we go into camp till the end of February.' One of Mr. Clifton's duties is to direct the clearing of wood preparatory to the formation of the camp, as in Miss Angus's crystal picture. The sceptical Mrs. Cockburn heard of these coincidences, and an idea occurred to her. She wrote to her daughter, who has been mentioned, and asked whether, on Wednesday, February 2, she had been lying on a sofa in her bed-room, with bare feet. The young lady confessed that it was indeed so; and, when she heard how the fact came to be known, expressed herself with some warmth on the abuse of glass balls, which tend to rob life of its privacy.
In this case the _prima facie_ aspect of things is that a thought of Mr. Bissett's about his stockbroker, _dulce ridentem_, somehow reflected itself into Miss Angus's mind by way of the glass ball, and was interrupted by a thought of Mrs. Cockburn's, as to her daughter. But how these thoughts came to display the unknown facts concerning the garden by the river, the felling of trees for a camp, and the bare feet, is a question about which it is vain to theorise.
On the vanishing of the jungle scene there appeared a picture of a man in a dark undress uniform, beside a great bay, in which were ships of war. Wooden huts, as in a plague district, were on shore. Mr. Bissett asked, 'What is the man's expression?' 'He looks as if he had been giving a lot of last orders.' Then appeared 'a place like a hospital, with five or six beds--no, berths: it is a ship. Here is the man again.' He was minutely described, one peculiarity being the way in which his hair grew--or, rather, did not grow--on his temples.
Miss Angus now asked, 'Where is my little lady?'--meaning the lady of the twirling parasol and _staccato_ walk. 'Oh, I've left off thinking of her,' said Mrs. Bissett, who had been thinking of, and recognised in the officer in undress uniform, her brother, the man with the singular hair, whose face, in fact, had been scarred in that way by an encounter with a tiger. He was expected to sail from Bombay, but news of his setting forth has not been received (February 10) at the moment when this is written.
In these Indian cases, 'thought transference' may account for the correspondence between the figures seen by Miss Angus and the ideas in the mind of Mr. and Mrs. Bissett. But the hypothesis of thought transference, while it would cover the wooden huts at Bombay (Mrs. Bissett knowing that her brother was about to leave that place), can scarcely explain the scene in the garden by the river and the scene with the trees. The incident of the bare feet may be regarded as a fortuitous coincidence, since Miss Angus saw the young lady foreshortened, and could not describe her face.
In the Introductory Chapter it was observed that the phenomena which apparently point to some unaccountable supernormal faculty of acquiring knowledge are 'trivial.' These anecdotes illustrate the triviality; but the facts certainly left a number of people, wholly unfamiliar with such experiments, under the impression that Miss Angus's glass ball was like Prince Ali's magical telescope in the 'Arabian Nights.' These experiments, however, occasionally touch on intimate personal matters, and cannot be reported in such instances.
It will be remarked that the faculty is freakish, and does not always respond to conscious exertion of thought in the mind of the inquirer. Thus, in Case I. a connection of the person thought of is discerned; in another the mind of a stranger present seems to be read. In another case (not given here) the inquirer tried to visualise a card for a person present to guess, while Miss Angus was asked to describe an object which the inquirer was acquainted with, but which he banished from his conscious thought. The double experiment was a double-barrelled success.
It seems hardly necessary to point out that chance coincidence will not cover this set of cases, where in each 'guess' the field of conjecture is boundless, and is not even narrowed by the crystal-gazer's knowledge of the persons for whose diversion she makes the experiment. As 'muscle-reading' is not in question (in the one case of contact between inquirer and crystal-gazer the results were unexpected), and as no unconsciously made signs could convey, for example, the idea of a cavalry soldier in uniform, or an accident on a race-course in two _tableaux_, I do not at present see any more plausible explanation than that of thought transference, though how that is to account for some of the cases given I do not precisely understand.
Any one who can accept the assurance of my personal belief in the good faith of all concerned will see how very useful this faculty of crystal-gazing must be to the Apache or Australian medicine-man or Polynesian priest. Freakish as the faculty is, a few real successes, well exploited and eked out by fraud, would set up a wizard's reputation. That a faculty of being thus affected is genuine seems proved, apart from modern evidence, by the world-wide prevalence of crystal-gazing in the ethnographic region. But the discovery of this prevalence had not been made, to my knowledge, before modern instances induced me to notice the circumstances, sporadically recorded in books of travel.
The phenomena are certainly of a kind to encourage the savage theory of the wandering soul. How else, thinkers would say, can the seer visit the distant place or person, and correctly describe men and scenes which, in the body, he never saw? Or they would encourage the Polynesian belief that the 'spirit' of the thing or person looked for is suspended by a god over the water, crystal, blood, ink, or whatever it may be. Thus, to anthropologists, the discovery of crystal-gazing as a thing widely
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