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that at the outburst of their studies, many young
for the first time irreverently handling and examining what had been an object of previous dread, imbibe the most sceptical ideas. Hence it is also, that in the progress of positive astronomical and chemical science, astrology and alchemy have been discarded as ridiculous and contemptuous fields of research. One of the most remarkable phenomena of the progress of civilisation, is its materialistic tendency. This has been constantly the case ever since Bacon supplanted the dialectic method of arriving at the knowledge of truth by the inductive. The man of pure science in the present day actually despises all that is not made cognisant to his senses by observation or experiment; but the founder of the philosophy of induction did not discard observation as a mental process as well as of the senses, and he never lost sight of the triple objects of all philosophy, “ God, nature, and man.” It is very doubtful whether in this great pride of the progress of a peculiarly material science, we have not lost much by the callousness which is thereby induced to all that is spiritual. By philosophers, all that does not appertain to the former is disregarded as fanciful, or despised as superstitious; he who would still indulge in thoughts of a less material nature, must shield himself with the dictum of a poet, that there are things which are not yet met with in our philosophies.
There are, however, exceptions to this, for it appears that at the meeting of naturalists, held at Stuttgard in 1834, a Swiss savant revived the subject of the Palingenesia of the alchemists, with a receipt for an experiment of that kind, extracted from a work by Oetinger, called “ Thoughts on the Birth and Generation of Things.” This so called Palingenesia, from Talw levo, to be produced again, was the art of reproducing from the ashes of an object the form which it originally possessed. M. du Chesne, a distinguished chemist of his time, relates that he was first shown by a Polish physician of Cracow certain phials containing ashes, which, when duly heated, exhibited the forms of various plants. A small obscure cloud was first observed, which gradually took in a defined form, and presented to the eye a rose, or whatever plant or flower the ashes consisted of. M. du Chesne, however, had never been able to repeat the experiment, though he had made several unsuccessful attempts to do so ; but at length he succeeded, by accident, in the following manner :-having for some purpose extracted the salts from some burnt nettles, and having left the lye outside the house all night to cool, in the morning he found it frozen; and to his surprise, the form and figure of the nettles were so exactly represented on the ice, that the living plant could not be more perfect. ' Delighted at this discovery, he summoned M. de Luynes, parliamentary councillor, to behold this curiosity; from whence, he says, they both concluded that when a body dies, its form or figure still resides in its ashes. Kircher, Van Helmont, Digby, and others, are said to have practised this art of resuscitating the forms of plants from their ashes.
The Italians have a proverb which says, Non ti fidiare al alchemista povero o medico amalato, and the above experiences will doubtlessly be set down by many as among those artifices and impostures which caused alchemy to be derided, as ars sine arte, cujus principium est mentiri
, medium laborare, et finis mendicare. The experiment of Oetinger's was also the result of accident. A woman having brought to the philo
sopher a large bunch of balm, he laid it under the tiles, which were yet warm with the summer's heat, where it dried in the shade. But, it being in the month of September, the cold soon came, and contracted the leaves without expelling the volatile salts. They lay there till the following June, when he chopped up the balm, put it into a glass retort, poured rain water upon it, and placed a receiver above. He afterwards heated it till the water boiled, and then increased the heat ; whereupon there appeared, on the water, a coat of yellow oil, about the thickness of the back of a knife, and this oil shaped itself into the forms of innumerable balm-leaves, which did not run one into another, but remained perfectly distinct and defined, and exhibited all the marks that are seen in the leaves of the plant. Oetinger says he kept the fluid some time, and showed it to a number of people. At length, wishing to throw it away, he shook it, and the leaves ran into one another with the disturbance of the oil, but resumed their distinct shape again as soon as it was at rest, the fluid form retaining the perfect signature.
There is, however, an experiment which belongs to modern chemistry, which is more remarkable than what is recorded as having been observed by the Swiss naturalist. This experiment consists in putting chloride of barium upon a plate, in a dark cellar, and placing the hand beneath it, when as soon as the warmth of the hand has penetrated the plate, the form of the hand is exhibited in phosphoric delineations on the upper surface of the plate. This experiment is not always successful. It appears that certain conditions of humidity in the atmosphere are essential to perfect success, but it has so far succeeded in the hands of scientific authorities as to fully test the fact, which has nothing at all supernatural in it, and simply demonstrates what Oetinger had previously felt when he said, “ the earthy husk remains in the retort, whilst the volatile essence ascends like a spirit, perfect in form, but void of substance;" only in this latter experiment the heat communicated by the hand to the chloride of barium, appears to give rise to certain luminous emanations, which seize at the same time the form of that which gave them birth. It is not more extraordinary that the light emanating from the human body should at times, or under favourable circumstances, exhibit the form from which it is derived, than that the hand should be repeated in chemical emanations taking place on the opposite side of a plate, or in the reproduction of the forms of plants from their ashes, as practised by the alchemists of old.
There are a sufficient number of these cases of re-production of the human form on record, some of them also sufficiently satisfactorily attested as to entitle them to at least a certain degree of attention and consideration. A singular occurrence which took place at Colmar, in the garden of the poet Pfeffel, has been made generally known by various writings. The following are the essential facts. The poet being blind, had employed a young
clergyman, of the evangelical church, as amanuensis. Pfeifel, when he walked out, was supported and led by this young man, whose name was Billing. As they walked in the garden, at some distance from the town, Pfeffel observed that, as often as they passed over a particular spot, the arm of Billing trembled, and he betrayed uneasiness. On being questioned, the young man reluctantly confessed that, as often as he passed over that spot, certain feelings attacked him which he could not control, and which he knew well, as he always experienced the same in passing over any place where human bodies lay buried. He added, that at night, when he came near such places, he saw supernatural appearances. Pfeffel, with the view of curing the youth of what he looked on as a fancy, went that night with him to the garden. As they approached the spot in the dark, Billing perceived a feeble light, and when still nearer, he saw a luminous ghost-like figure floating over the spot. This he described as a female form, with one arm laid across the body, the other hanging down, floating in the upright posture, but tranquil
, the feet only a hand-breadth or two above the soil. Pfeffel went alone, as the young man declined to follow him, up to the place where the figure was said to be, and struck about in all directions with his stick, besides running actually through the shadow ; but the figure was not more affected than a flame would have been ; the luminous form, according to Billing, always returned to its original position after these experiments
. Many things were tried during several months, and numerous companies of people were brought to the spot, but the latter remained the same, and the ghost-seer adhered to his serious assertion, and to the opinion founded on it, that some individual lay buried there. At last, Pfeffel had the place dug up. At a considerable depth was found a firm layer of white lime, of the length and breadth of a grave, and of considerable thickness, and when this had been broken into, there were found the bones of a human being. It was evident that some one had been buried in the place, and covered with a thick layer of quick lime, as is often done in times of pestilence. The bones were removed, the pit filled up, the lime mixed and scattered abroad, and the surface again made smooth. When Billing was now brought back to the place, the phenomena did not return, and the nocturnal spirit had for ever disappeared.
This story excited much interest in Germany, because it came from the most truthful man alive, and theologians and psychologists attempted various explanations.
appears, however, to have been a case of evolution of light after death, accompanied by palingenesia, or the reproduction of the original form. This phenomenon of luminous apparitions has given rise to a deal of thoughtless ridicule. Grose, whom Dr. Hibbert quotes with peculiar satisfaction, says, “I cannot learn that ghosts carry tapers in their hands, as they are sometimes depicted, though the room in which they appear, even when without fire or candle, is frequently said to be as light as day.”
Mr. Charles Ollier, in a little work just published on the “Fallacy of Ghosts, Dreams, &c.,” makes the invisibility of ghosts by daylight his fundamental argument against the existence of such. The grand phantom of Hamlet's father, he says, "faded on the crowing of the cock.” “ The fact is,” continues Mr. Ollier, “ that laughter is death to ghosts ; and what but laughter would attend the appearance of one of them, at noon, in Pall-mall ? Lord Byron fancied he saw a phantom of a black friar at Newstead Abbey ; but to use his own language, it
Appeared, Now in the moonlight, and now lapsed in shade. It would be the very triumph of the world of spirits if one of them could maintain its pretensions in the eye of day. This would settle all doubt. But no; they do not dare such an issue : they know 'a trick worth two of that.'"
It is impossible to approve either the manner or the logic with which so serious a question is disposed of in the above quotation. It is true that Mr. Ollier has antecedents for the position he takes, but the argument has always been advanced in a less irreverent manner. So also Mr. Ollier has a precedent for saying that “any man must be an insufferable egotist who claims in his own case an especial and divine interposition to ward off calamities which in the vast majority of his fellow-creatures fall without warning, and without even a suspicion of their liability to them. A belief in God's superintending providence is injured by nothing more than by giving credence to so-called partial and exclusive manifestations of it.” Yet Mr. Ollier has not perceived that by advocating such a doctrine he annihilates all belief in a special providence!
But to return to the case of luminous apparitions, it is surely within the experience, or at least the knowledge of most, that light of a faint description is only visible in the dark. The coal and iron works of Wednesbury, when seen at night-time, present a vast scene of illumination, while in the broad daylight even the strongest flames issuing from the chimneys are not visible. How much more so must this be the case with the delicate phosphorescent light emanating from the human body? The notion so available to those who satisfy themselves with scoffing without inquiring, that broad daylight banishes apparitions, betrays a want of familiarity with the natural laws, which the great poet, as usual, has not shown in the expressions put into Horatio's mouth. What would be thought of a philosopher who should say of the stars that fade away before the brightness of daylight, “ It would be the very triumph of the world of stars if one of them could maintain its pretensions in the eye
of day. But no ; they do not dare such an issue : they know ' a trick worth two of that.'”
A gentleman, of the name of Dorrien, of most excellent character and amiable disposition, who was tutor in the Carolina Colleges at Brunswick, died there in 1746, and immediately previous to his death, he sent to request an interview with another tutor, of the name of Hofer, with whom he had lived on terms of friendship. Hofer obeyed the summons, but came too late; the dying man was already in the last agonies. After a short time, rumours began to circulate that Herr Dorrien had been seen by different persons about the college; but as it was with the pupils that these rumours originated, they were supposed to be mere fancies, and no attention whatever was paid to them. At length, however, one night, as Hofer was going through the college, as it was his customary duty to ascertain that all the scholars were in bed, and that nothing irregular was going on amongst them, he saw, to his great amazement, Herr Dorrien seated in one of the ante-rooms. On the following day, he related this circumstance to the professor of mathematics, Oeder, who, of course, treated the thing as a spectral illusion. He, however, consented to accompany Hofer on his rounds the ensuing night, satisfied that he should be able either to convince him it was a mere phantasm, or else a spectre of flesh and blood who was playing him a trick. They accordingly went at the usual hour; but no sooner had the professor of mathematics set his foot in the room where the apparition had been before seen, than he exclaimed,
“ By Heavens, it is Dorrien himself !" Unfortunately, neither of the gentlemen, although they contemplated the June.- VOL. LXXXIII. NO. CCCXXX.
figure for some time, had the courage to address or approach it. After this the apparition visited Professor Oeder several times in his own apartment, and it was always made visible by a light that proceeded from itself. Annoyed at such a visitation, the professor burnt a light in his room, and also had some one with him every night. He gained this advantage by the light, that he saw nothing, but he heard noises that sufficiently intimated the presence of his nocturnal visitor. At length, these also diminishing, he dispensed with both light and bedfellow, when the apparition re-appeared, nor was it quieted till the professor, by studying its wishes, was enabled to satisfy the restless spirit.
In the interesting story of the apparition that appeared to the only daughter of Sir Charles Lee, previous to her death, and which is quoted by Dr. Hibbert from Beaumont's “ World of Spirits," with the remark that no reasonable doubt can be placed on the authenticity of the narrative, as it was drawn up by the Bishop of Gloucester, from the recital of the young lady's father, the presence of the apparition was, in a similar manner, indicated by a light. “Whereupon the young lady, who was in bed, knocked for her maid, who presently came to her, and she asked, • Why she left a candle burning in her room ?' The maid answered that she had left none, and that there was none but what she had brought with her at that time ; then she said it must be the fire ; but that was quite out, adding, she believed it was only a dream, whereupon Miss Lee answered, it might be so, and composed herself again to sleep until the apparition returned."
Mrs. Crowe relates a case that came under her personal knowledge, of the servants in a country-house in Aberdeenshire, hearing the door-bell ring after their mistress was gone to bed; on coming to open it, they saw through a window that looked into the hall that it was quite light, and that their master, Mr. F., who was at the time absent from home, was there in his travelling-dress. They ran to tell their mistress what they had seen; but when they returned all was dark, and there was nothing unusual to be discovered. That night Mr. F. died at sea, on his voyage to London. In the actual state of knowledge, it is possible to understand the re-appearance at the time of death or after death, by the force of will of the palingenesia at a favourite spot, or in a wished-for presence, but it is not so easy to account for apparitions appearing habited as at the time of death, or, as sometimes occurs, in their more usual habits. Mrs. Crowe relates an incident of a more simple character. A gentleman some time ago awoke in the middle of a dark winter's night and perceived that his room was as light as if it were day. He awoke his wife and mentioned the circumstance, saying he could not help apprehending that some misfortune had occurred to his fishing-boats, which had put to sea. The boats were lost that night.
A circumstance of the same kind occurred within the writer's experience. A gentleman lost a young child in the morning. The body was taken down stairs and laid out in a front parlour, with only the blinds drawn down upon the street. In the evening the gentleman went out to register his child's death, and he took with him his eldest son, an intelligent boy
On their return they both observed a very bright light in the room where the body lay. They stopped and looked at it a moment. “ Mamma is with little Johnny,” remarked the boy, thinking it must be a candle in the room. The gentleman thought so also,
of ten years