The concluding paragraph of this British Association paper equally illustrates his insight and precision, regarding the nature of chemical and latent heat. 'I had,' he writes, 'endeavoured to prove that when two atoms combine together, the heat evolved is exactly that which would have been evolved by the electrical current due to the chemical action taking place, and is therefore proportional to the intensity of the chemical force causing the atoms to combine. I now venture to state more explicitly, that it is not precisely the attraction of affinity, but rather the mechanical force expended by the atoms in falling towards one another, which determines the intensity of the current, and, consequently, the quantity of heat evolved; so that we have a simple hypothesis by which we may explain why heat is evolved so freely in the combination of gases, and by which indeed we may account "latent heat" as a mechanical power, prepared for action, as a watch-spring is when wound up. Suppose, for the sake of illustration, that 8 lbs. of oxygen and 1 lb. of hydrogen were presented to one another in the gaseous state, and then exploded; the heat evolved would be about 1 degree Fahr. in 60,000 lbs. of water, indicating a mechanical force, expended in the combination, equal to a weight of about 50,000,000 lbs. raised to the height of one foot. Now if the oxygen and hydrogen could be presented to each other in a liquid state, the heat of combination would be less than before, because the atoms in combining would fall through less space.' No words of mine are needed to point out the commanding grasp of molecular physics, in their relation to the mechanical theory of heat, implied by this statement.
Perfectly assured of the importance of the principle which his experiments aimed at establishing, Mr. Joule did not rest content with results presenting such discrepancies as those above referred to. He resorted in 1844 to entirely new methods, and made elaborate experiments on the thermal changes produced in air during its expansion: firstly, against a pressure, and therefore performing work; secondly, against no pressure, and therefore performing no work. He thus established anew the relation between the heat consumed and the work done. From five different series of experiments he deduced five different mechanical equivalents, the agreement between them being far greater than that attained in his first experiments. The mean of them was 802 foot-pounds. From experiments with water agitated by a paddle-wheel, he deduced, in 1845, an equivalent of 890 foot-pounds. In 1847 he again operated upon water and sperm-oil, agitated them by a paddle-wheel, determined their elevation of temperature, and the mechanical power which produced it. From the one he derived an equivalent of 781.6 foot-pounds; from the other an equivalent of 782.1 foot-pounds. The mean of these two very close determinations is 781.8 foot-pounds.
By this time the labours of the previous ten years had made Mr. Joule completely master of the conditions essential to accuracy and success. Bringing his ripened experience to bear upon the subject, he executed in 1849 a series of 40 experiments on the friction of water, 50 experiments on the friction of mercury, and 20 experiments on the friction of plates of cast-iron. He deduced from these experiments our present mechanical equivalent of heat, justly recognised all over the world as 'Joule's equivalent.'
There are labours so great and so pregnant in consequences, that they are most highly praised when they are most simply stated. Such are the labours of Mr. Joule. They constitute the experimental foundation of a principle of incalculable moment, not only to the practice, but still more to the philosophy of Science. Since the days of Newton, nothing more important than the theory, of which Mr. Joule is the experimental demonstrator, has been enunciated.
I have omitted all reference to the numerous minor papers with which Mr. Joule has enriched scientific literature. Nor have I alluded to the important investigations which he has conducted jointly with Sir William Thomson. But sufficient, I think, has been here said to show that, in conferring upon Mr. Joule the highest honour of the Royal Society, the Council paid to genius not only a well-won tribute, but one which had been fairly earned twenty years previously. [Footnote: Lord Beaconsfield has recently honoured himself and England by bestowing an annual pension of 200 pounds on Dr. Joule.]
XX. THE COPLEY MEDALIST OF 1871.
DR. JULIUS ROBERT MAYER was educated for D the medical profession. In the summer of 1840, as he himself informs us, he was at Java, and there observed that the venous blood of some of his patients had a singularly bright red colour. The observation riveted his attention; he reasoned upon it, and came to the conclusion that the brightness of the colour was due to the fact that a less amount of oxidation sufficed to keep up the temperature of the body in a hot climate than in a cold one. The darkness of the venous blood he regarded as the visible sign of the energy of the oxidation.
It would be trivial to remark that accidents such as this, appealing to minds prepared for them, have often led to great discoveries. Mayer's attention was thereby drawn to the whole question of animal heat. Lavoisier had ascribed this heat to the oxidation of the food. 'One great principle,' says Mayer, 'of the physiological theory of combustion, is that under all circumstances the same amount of fuel yields, by its perfect combustion, the same amount of heat; that this law holds good even for vital processes; and that hence the living body, notwithstanding all its enigmas and wonders, is incompetent to generate heat out of nothing.'
But beyond the power of generating internal heat, the animal organism can also generate heat outside of itself. A blacksmith, for example, by hammering can heat a nail, and a savage by friction can warm wood to its point of ignition. Now, unless we give up the physiological axiom that the living body cannot create heat out of nothing, 'we are driven,' says Mayer, 'to the conclusion that it is the total heat generated within and without that is to be regarded as the true calorific effect of the matter oxidised in the body.'
From this, again, he inferred that the heat generated externally must stand in a fixed relation to the work expended in its production. For, supposing the organic processes to remain the same; if it were possible, by the mere alteration of the apparatus, to generate different amounts of heat by the same amount of work, it would follow that the oxidation of the same amount of material would sometimes yield a less, sometimes a greater, quantity of heat. 'Hence,' says Mayer, 'that a fixed relation subsists between heat and work, is a postulate of the physiological theory of combustion.'
This is the simple and natural account, given subsequently by Mayer himself, of the course of thought started by his observation in Java. But the conviction once formed, that an unalterable relation subsists between work and heat, it was: inevitable that Mayer should seek to express it numerically. It was also inevitable that a mind like his, having raised itself to clearness on this important point, should push forward to consider the relationship of natural forces generally. At the beginning of 1842 his work had made considerable progress; but he had become physician to the town of Heilbronn, and the duties of his profession limited the time which he could devote to purely scientific enquiry. He thought it wise, therefore, to secure himself against accident, and in the spring of 1842 wrote to Liebig, asking him to publish in his 'Annalen' a brief preliminary notice of the work then accomplished. Liebig did so, and Dr. Mayer's first paper is contained in the May number of the 'Annalen' for 1842.
Mayer had reached his conclusions by reflecting on the complex processes of the living body; but his first step in public was to state definitely the physical principles on which his physiological deductions were to rest. He begins, therefore, with the forces of inorganic nature. He finds in the universe two systems of causes which are not mutually convertible;—the different kinds of matter and the different forms of force. The first quality of both he affirms to be indestructibility. A force cannot become nothing, nor can it arise from nothing. Forces are convertible but not destructible. In the terminology of his time, he then gives clear expression to the ideas of potential and dynamic energy, illustrating his point by a weight resting upon the earth, suspended at a height above the earth, and actually falling to the earth. He next fixes his attention on cases where motion is apparently destroyed, without producing other motion; on the shock of inelastic bodies, for example. Under what form does the vanished motion maintain itself? Experiment alone, says Mayer, can help us here. He warms water by stirring it; he refers to the force expended in overcoming friction. Motion in both cases disappears; but heat is generated, and the quantity generated is the equivalent of the motion destroyed. 'Our locomotives,' he observes with extraordinary sagacity, 'may be compared to distilling apparatus: the heat beneath the boiler passes into the motion of the train, and is again deposited as heat in the axles and wheels.
A numerical solution of the relation between heat and work was what Mayer aimed at, and towards the end of his first paper he makes the attempt. It was known that a definite amount of air, in rising one degree in temperature, can take up two different amounts of heat. If its volume be kept constant, it takes up one amount: if its pressure be kept constant it takes up a different amount. These two amounts are called the specific heat under constant volume and under constant pressure. The ratio of the first to the second is as 1: 1.421. No man, to my knowledge, prior to Dr. Mayer, penetrated the significance of these two numbers. He first saw that the excess 0.421 was not, as then universally supposed, heat actually lodged in the gas, but heat which had been actually consumed by the gas in expanding against pressure. The amount of work here performed was accurately known, the amount of heat consumed was also accurately known, and from these data Mayer determined the mechanical equivalent of heat. Even in this first paper he is able to direct attention to the enormous discrepancy between the theoretic power of the fuel consumed in steam-engines, and their useful effect.
Though this paper contains but the germ of his further labours, I think it may be safely assumed that, as regards the mechanical theory of heat, this obscure Heilbronn physician, in the year 1842, was in advance of all the scientific men of the time.
Having, by the publication of this paper, secured himself against what he calls 'Eventualitaeten,' he devoted every hour of his spare time to his studies, and in 1845 published a memoir which far transcends his first one in weight and fulness, and, indeed, marks an epoch in the history of science. The title of Mayer's first paper was, 'Remarks on the Forces of Inorganic Nature.' The title of his second great essay was, 'Organic Motion in its Connection with Nutrition.' In it he expands and illustrates the physical principles laid down in his first brief paper.
He goes fully through the calculation of the mechanical equivalent of heat. He calculates the performances of steam-engines, and finds that 100 lbs. of coal, in a good working engine, produce only the same amount of heat as 95 lbs. in an unworking one; the 5 missing lbs. having been converted into work. He determines the useful effect of gunpowder, and finds nine per cent. of the force of the consumed charcoal invested on the moving ball. He records observations on the heat generated in water agitated by the pulping engine of a paper manufactory, and calculates the equivalent of that heat in horse-power. He compares chemical combination with mechanical combination—the union of atoms with the union of falling bodies with the earth. He calculates the velocity with which a body starting at an infinite distance would strike the earth's surface, and finds that the heat generated by its collision would raise an equal weight of water 17,356' C. in temperature. He then determines the thermal effect which would be produced by the earth itself falling into the sun. So that here, in 1845, we have the germ of that meteoric theory of the sun's heat which Mayer developed with such extraordinary ability three years afterwards. He also points to the almost exclusive efficacy of the sun's heat in producing mechanical motions upon the earth, winding up with the profound remark, that the heat developed by friction in the wheels of our wind and water mills comes from the sun in the form of vibratory motion; while the heat produced by mills driven by tidal action is generated at the expense of the earth's axial rotation.
Having thus, with firm step, passed through the powers of inorganic nature, his next object is to bring his principles to bear upon the phenomena of vegetable and animal life. Wood and coal can burn; whence come their heat, and the work producible by that heat? From the immeasurable reservoir of the sun. Nature has proposed to herself the task of storing up the light which streams earthward from the sun, and of casting into a permanent form the most fugitive of all powers. To this end she has overspread the earth with organisms which, while living, take in the solar light, and by its consumption generate forces of another kind. These organisms are plants. The vegetable world, indeed, constitutes the instrument whereby the wave-motion of the sun is changed into the rigid form of chemical tension, and thus prepared for future use. With this prevision, as shall subsequently be shown, the existence of the human race itself is inseparably connected. It is to be observed that Mayer's utterances are far from being anticipated by vague statements regarding the 'stimulus' of light, or regarding coal as 'bottled sunlight.' He first saw the full meaning of De Saussure's observation as to the reducing power of the solar rays, and gave that observation its proper place in the doctrine of conservation. In the leaves of a tree, the carbon and oxygen of carbonic acid, and the hydrogen and oxygen of water, are forced asunder at the expense of the sun, and the amount of power thus sacrificed is accurately restored by the combustion of the tree. The heat and work potential in our coal strata are so much strength withdrawn from the sun of former ages. Mayer lays the axe to the root of the notions regarding 'vital force' which were prevalent when he wrote. With the plain fact before us that in the absence of the solar rays plants cannot perform the work of reduction, or generate chemical tensions, it is, he contends, incredible that these tensions should be caused by the mystic play of the vital force. Such an hypothesis would cut off all investigation; it would land us in a chaos of unbridled phantasy.
'I count,' he says, 'therefore, upon your agreement with me when I state, as an axiomatic truth, that during vital processes the conversion only, and never the creation of matter or force occurs.'
Having cleared his way through the vegetable world, as he had previously done through inorganic nature, Mayer passes on to the other organic kingdom. The physical forces collected by plants become the property of animals. Animals consume vegetables, and cause them to reunite with the atmospheric oxygen. Animal heat is thus produced; and not only animal heat, but animal motion. There is no indistinctness about Mayer here; he grasps his subject in all its details, and reduces to figures the concomitants of muscular action. A bowler who imparts to an 8-lb. ball a velocity of 30 feet, consumes in the act one tenth of a grain of carbon. A man weighing 150 lbs, who lifts his own body to a height of 8 feet, consumes in the act 1 grain of carbon. In climbing a mountain 10,000 feet high, the consumption of the same man would be 2 oz. 4 drs. 50 grs. of carbon. Boussingault had determined experimentally the addition to be made to the food of horses when actively working, and Liebig had determined the addition to be made to the food of men. Employing the mechanical equivalent of heat, which he had previously calculated, Mayer proves the additional food to be amply sufficient to cover the increased oxidation.
But he does not content himself with showing, in a general way, that the human body burns according to definite laws, when it performs mechanical work. He seeks to determine the particular portion of the body consumed, and in doing so executes some noteworthy calculations. The muscles of a labourer 150 lbs. in weight weigh 64 lbs; but when perfectly desiccated they fall to 15 lbs. Were the oxidation corresponding to that labourer's work exerted on the muscles alone, they would be utterly consumed in 80 days. The heart furnishes a still more striking example. Were the oxidation necessary to sustain the heart's action exerted upon its own tissue, it would be utterly consumed in 8 days. And if we confine our attention to the two ventricles, their action would be sufficient to consume the associated muscular tissue in 3.5 days. Here, in his own words, emphasised in his own way, is Mayer's pregnant conclusion from these calculations: 'The muscle is only the apparatus by means of which the conversion of the force is effected; but it is not the substance consumed in the production of the mechanical effect.' He calls the blood 'the oil of the lamp of life;' it is the slow-burning fluid whose chemical force, in the furnace of the capillaries, is sacrificed to produce animal motion. This was Mayer's conclusion twenty-six years ago. It was in complete opposition to the scientific conclusions of his time; but eminent investigators have since amply verified it.
Thus, in baldest outline, I have sought to give some notion of the first half of this marvellous essay. The second half is so exclusively physiological that I do not wish to meddle with it. I will only add the illustration employed by Mayer to explain the action of the nerves upon the muscles. As an engineer, by the motion of his finger in opening a valve or loosing a detent, can liberate an amount of mechanical motion almost infinite compared with its exciting cause, so the nerves, acting upon the muscles, can unlock an amount of activity, wholly out of proportion to the work done by the nerves themselves.
As regards these questions of weightiest import to the science of physiology, Dr. Mayer, in 1845, was assuredly far in advance of all living men.
Mayer grasped the mechanical theory of heat with commanding power, illustrating it and applying it in the most diverse domains. He began, as we have seen, with physical principles; he determined the numerical relation between heat and work; he revealed the source of the energies of the vegetable world, and showed the relationship of the heat of our fires to solar heat. He followed the energies which were potential in the vegetable, up to their local exhaustion in the animal. But in 1845 a new thought was forced upon him by his calculations. He then, for the first time, drew attention to the astounding amount of heat generated by gravity where the force has sufficient distance to act through. He proved, as I have before stated, the heat of collision of a body falling from an infinite distance to the earth, to be sufficient to raise the temperature of a quantity of water, equal to the falling body in weight, 17,356 deg.C. He also found, in 1845, that the gravitating force between the earth and sun was competent to generate an amount of heat equal to that obtainable from the combustion of 6,000 times the weight of the earth of solid coal. With the quickness of genius he saw that we had here a power sufficient to produce the enormous temperature of the sun, and also to account for the primal molten condition of our own planet. Mayer shows the utter inadequacy of chemical forces, as we know them, to produce or maintain the solar temperature. He shows that were the sun a lump of coal it would be utterly consumed in 5,000 years. He shows the difficulties attending the assumption that the sun is a cooling body; for, supposing it to possess even the high specific heat of water, its temperature would fall 15,000' in 5,000 years. He finally concludes that the light and heat of the sun are maintained by the constant impact of meteoric matter. I never ventured an opinion as to the truth of this theory; that is a question which may still have to be fought out. But I refer to it as an illustration of the force of genius with which Mayer followed the mechanical theory of heat through all its applications. Whether the meteoric theory be a matter of fact or not, with him abides the honour of proving to demonstration that the light and heat of suns and stars may be originated and maintained by the collisions of cold planetary matter.
It is the man who with the scantiest data could accomplish all this in six short years, and in, the hours snatched from the duties of an arduous profession, that the Royal Society, in 1871, crowned with its highest honour.
Comparing this brief history with that of the Copley Medalist of 1870, the differentiating influence of 'environment,' on two minds of similar natural cast and endowment, comes out in an instructive manner. Withdrawn from mechanical appliances, Mayer fell back upon reflection, selecting with marvellous sagacity, from existing physical data, the single result on which could be founded a calculation of the mechanical equivalent of heat. In the midst of mechanical appliances, Joule resorted to experiment, and laid the broad and firm foundation which has secured for the mechanical theory the acceptance it now enjoys. A great portion of Joule's time was occupied in actual manipulation; freed from this, Mayer had time to follow the theory into its most abstruse and impressive applications. With their places reversed, however, Joule might have become Mayer, and Mayer might have become Joule.
It does not lie within the scope of these brief articles to enter upon the developments of the Dynamical Theory accomplished since Joule and Mayer executed their memorable labours.
XXI. DEATH BY LIGHTNING.
PEOPLE in general imagine, when they think at all about the matter, that an impression upon the nerves—a blow, for example, or the prick of a pin—is felt at the moment it is inflicted. But this is not the case. The seat of sensation being the brain, to it the intelligence of any impression made upon the nerves has to be transmitted before this impression can become manifest as consciousness. The transmission, moreover, requires time, and the consequence is, that a wound inflicted on a portion of the body distant from the brain is more tardily appreciated than one inflicted adjacent to the brain. By an extremely ingenious experimental arrangement, Helmholtz has determined the velocity of this nervous transmission, and finds it to be about eighty feet a second, or less than one-thirteenth of the velocity of sound in air. If therefore, a whale forty feet long were wounded in the tail, it would not be conscious of the injury till half a second after the wound had been inflicted. [Footnote: A most admirable lecture on the velocity of nervous transmission has been published by Dr. Du Bois Reymond in the 'Proceedings of the Royal Institution' for 1866, vol. iv. p. 575.] But this is not the only ingredient in the delay. There can scarcely be a doubt that to every act of consciousness belongs a determinate molecular arrangement of the brain—that every thought or feeling has its physical correlative in that organ; and nothing can be more certain than that every physical change, whether molecular or mechanical, requires time for its accomplishment. So that, besides the interval of transmission, a still further time is necessary for the brain to put itself in order—for its molecules to take up the motions or positions necessary to the completion of consciousness. Helmholtz considers that one-tenth of a second is demanded for this purpose. Thus, in the case of the whale above supposed, we have first half a second consumed in the transmission of the intelligence through the sensor nerves to the head, one-tenth of a second consumed by the brain in completing the arrangements necessary to consciousness, and, if the velocity of transmission through the motor be the same as that through the sensor nerves, half a second in sending a command to the tail to defend itself. Thus one second and a tenth would elapse before an impression made upon its caudal nerves could be responded to by a whale forty feet long.
Now, it is quite conceivable that an injury might be inflicted so rapidly that within the time required by the brain to complete the arrangements necessary to consciousness, its power of arrangement might be destroyed. In such a case, though the injury might be of a nature to cause death, this would occur without pain, Death in this case would be simply the sudden negation of life, without any intervention of consciousness whatever.
The time required for a rifle-bullet to pass clean through a man's head may be roughly estimated at a thousandth of a second. Here, therefore, we should have no room for sensation, and death would be painless. But there are other actions which far transcend in rapidity that of the rifle-bullet. A flash of lightning cleaves a cloud, appearing and disappearing in less than a hundred-thousandth of a second, and the velocity of electricity is such as would carry it in a single second over a distance almost equal to that which separates the earth and moon. It is well known that a luminous impression once made upon the retina endures for about one-sixth of a second, and that this is the reason why we see a continuous band of light when a glowing coal is caused to pass rapidly through the air. A body illuminated by an instantaneous flash continues to be seen for the sixth of a second after the flash has become extinct; and if the body thus illuminated be in motion, it appears at rest at the place where the flash falls upon it. When a colour-top with differently-coloured sectors is caused to spin rapidly the colours blend together. Such a top, rotating in a dark room and illuminated by an electric spark, appears motionless, each distinct colour being clearly seen. Professor Dove has found that a flash of lightning produces the same effect. During a thunderstorm he put a colour-top in exceedingly rapid motion, and found that every flash revealed the top as a motionless object with its colours distinct. If illuminated solely by a flash of lightning, the motion of all bodies on the earth's surface would, as Dove has remarked, appear suspended. A cannon-ball, for example, would have its flight apparently arrested, and would seem to hang motionless in space as long as the luminous impression which revealed the ball remained upon the eye.
If, then, a rifle-bullet move with sufficient rapidity to destroy life without the interposition of sensation, much more is a flash of lightning competent to produce this effect. Accordingly, we have well-authenticated cases of people being struck senseless by lightning who, on recovery, had no memory of pain. The following circumstantial case is described by Hemmer:
On June 30, 1788, a soldier in the neighbourhood of Mannheim, being overtaken by rain, placed himself under a tree, beneath which a woman had previously taken shelter. He looked upwards to see whether the branches were thick enough to afford the required protection, and, in doing so, was struck by lightning, and fell senseless to the earth. The woman at his side experienced the shock in her foot, but was not struck down. Some hours afterwards the man revived, but remembered nothing about what had occurred, save the fact of his looking up at the branches. This was his last act of consciousness, and he passed from the conscious to the unconscious condition without pain. The visible marks of a lightning stroke are usually insignificant: the hair is sometimes burnt; slight wounds are observed; while, in some instances, a red streak marks the track of the discharge over the skin.
Under ordinary circumstances, the discharge from a small Leyden jar is exceedingly unpleasant to me. Some time ago I happened to stand in the presence of a numerous audience, with a battery of fifteen large Leyden jars charged beside me. Through some awkwardness on my part, I touched a wire leading from the battery, and the discharge went through my body. Life was absolutely blotted out for a very sensible interval, without a trace of pain. Ina second or so consciousness returned; I vaguely discerned the audience and apparatus, and, by the help of these external appearances, immediately concluded that I had received the battery discharge. The intellectual consciousness of my position was restored with exceeding rapidity, but not so the optical consciousness. To prevent the audience from being alarmed, I observed that it had often been my desire to receive accidentally such a shock, and that my wish had at length been fulfilled. But, while making this remark, the appearance which my body presented to my eyes was that of a number of separate pieces. The arms, for example, were detached from the trunk, and seemed suspended in the air. In fact, memory and the power of reasoning appeared to be complete long before the optic nerve was restored to healthy action. But what I wish chiefly to dwell upon here is, the absolute painlessness of the shock; and there cannot, I think, be a doubt that, to a person struck dead by lightning, the passage from life to death occurs without consciousness being in the least degree implicated. It is an abrupt stoppage of sensation, unaccompanied by a pang.
XXII. SCIENCE AND THE 'SPIRITS.'
THEIR refusal to investigate 'spiritual phenomena' is often urged as a reproach against scientific men. I here propose to give a sketch of an attempt to apply to the 'phenomena' those methods of enquiry which are found available in dealing with natural truth.
Some years ago, when the spirits were particularly active in this country, Faraday was invited, or rather entreated, by one of his friends to meet and question them. He had, however, already made their acquaintance, and did not wish to renew it. I had not been so privileged, and he therefore kindly arranged a transfer of the invitation to me. The spirits themselves named the time of meeting, and I was conducted to the place at the day and hour appointed.
Absolute unbelief in the facts was by no means my condition of mind. On the contrary, I thought it probable that some physical principle, not evident to the spiritualists themselves, might underlie their manifestations. Extraordinary effects are produced by the accumulation of small impulses. Galileo set a heavy pendulum in motion by the well-timed puffs of his breath. Ellicot set one clock going by the ticks of another, even when the two clocks were separated by a wall. Preconceived notions, can, moreover, vitiate, to an extraordinary degree, the testimony of even veracious persons. Hence my desire to witness those extraordinary phenomena, the existence of which seemed placed beyond a doubt by the known veracity of those who had witnessed and described them. The meeting took place at a private residence in the neighbourhood of London. My host, his intelligent wife, and a gentleman who may be called X, were in the house when I arrived. I was informed that the 'medium' had not yet made her appearance; that she was sensitive, and might resent suspicion. It was therefore requested that the tables and chairs should be examined before her arrival, in order to be assured that there was no trickery in the furniture. This was done; and I then first learned that my hospitable host had arranged that the seance should be a dinner-party. This was to me an unusual form of investigation; but I accepted it, as one of the accidents of the occasion.
The 'medium' arrived—a delicate-looking young lady, who appeared to have suffered much from ill health. I took her to dinner and sat close beside her. Facts were absent for a considerable time, a series of very wonderful narratives supplying their place. The duty of belief on the testimony of witnesses was frequently insisted on. X. appeared to be a chosen spiritual agent, and told us many surprising things. He affirmed that, when he took a pen in his hand, an influence ran from his shoulder downwards, and impelled him to write oracular sentences. I listened for a time, offering no observation. 'And now,' continued X, 'this power has so risen as to reveal to me the thoughts of others. Only this morning I told a friend what he was thinking of, and what he intended to do during the day.' Here, I thought, is something that can be at once tested. I said immediately to X: 'If you wish to win to your cause an apostle, who will proclaim your principles to the world from the housetop, tell me what I am now thinking of.' X. reddened, and did not tell me my thought.
Some time previously I had visited Baron Reichenbach, in Vienna, and I now asked the young lady who sat beside me, whether she could see any of the curious things which he describes—the light emitted by crystals, for example? Here is the conversation which followed, as extracted from my notes, written on the day following the seance.
Medium.—'Oh, yes; but I see light around all bodies.'
I—'Even in perfect darkness?'
Medium.—'Yes; I see luminous atmospheres round all people. The atmosphere which surrounds Mr. R. C. would fill this room with light.'
I.—'You are aware of the effects ascribed by Baron Reichenbach to magnets?'
Medium.—'Yes; but a magnet makes me terribly ill.'
I.—'Am I to understand that, if this room were perfectly dark, you could tell whether it contained a magnet, without being informed of the fact?'
Medium.—'I should know of its presence on entering the room.'
Medium.—'I should be rendered instantly ill.'
I.—'How do you feel to-day?'
Medium.—'Particularly well; I have not been so well for months.'
I.—'Then, may I ask you whether there is, at the present moment, a magnet in my possession?'
The young lady looked at me, blushed, and stammered, 'No; I am not en rapport with you.'
I sat at her right hand, and a left-hand pocket, within six inches of her person, contained a magnet.
Our host here deprecated discussion, as it 'exhausted the medium.' The wonderful narratives were resumed; but I had narratives of my own quite as wonderful. These spirits, indeed, seemed clumsy creations, compared with those with which my own work had made me familiar. I therefore began to match the wonders related to me by other wonders. A lady present discoursed on spiritual atmospheres, which she could see as beautiful colours when she closed her eyes. I professed myself able to see similar colours, and, more than that, to be able to see the interior of my own eyes. The medium affirmed that she could see actual waves of light coming from the sun. I retorted that men of science could tell the exact number of waves emitted in a second, and also their exact length. The medium spoke of the performances of the spirits on musical instruments. I said that such performance was gross, in comparison with a kind of music which had been discovered some time previously by a scientific man. Standing at a distance of twenty feet from a jet of gas, he could command the flame to emit a melodious note; it would obey, and continue its song for hours. So loud was the music emitted by the gas-flame, that it might be heard by an assembly of a thousand people. These were acknowledged to be as great marvels as any of those of spiritdom. The spirits were then consulted, and I was pronounced to be a first-class medium.
During this conversation a low knocking was heard from time to time under the table. These, I was told, were the spirits' knocks. I was informed that one knock, in answer to a question, meant 'No;' that two knocks meant 'Not yet;' and that three knocks meant 'Yes.'
In answer to a question whether I was a medium, the response was three brisk and vigorous knocks. I noticed that the knocks issued from a particular locality, and therefore requested the spirits to be good enough to answer from another corner of the table. They did not comply; but I was assured that they would do it, and much more, by-and-by. The knocks continuing, I turned a wine-glass upside down, and placed my ear upon it, as upon a stethoscope. The spirits seemed disconcerted by the act; they lost their playfulness, and did not recover it for a considerable time.
Somewhat weary of the proceedings, I once threw myself back against my chair and gazed listlessly out of the window. While thus engaged, the table was rudely pushed. Attention was drawn to the wine, still oscillating in the glasses, and I was asked whether that was not convincing. I readily granted the fact of motion, and began to feel the delicacy of my position. There were several pairs of arms upon the table, and several pairs of legs under it; but how was I, without offence, to express the conviction which I really entertained? To ward off the difficulty, I again turned a wine-glass upside down and rested my ear upon it. The rim of the glass was not level, and my hair, on touching it, caused it to vibrate, and produce a peculiar buzzing sound. A perfectly candid and warm-hearted old gentleman at the opposite side of the table, whom I may call A, drew attention to the sound, and expressed his entire belief that it was spiritual. I, however, informed him that it was the moving hair acting on the glass. The explanation was not well received; and X, in a tone of severe pleasantry, demanded whether it was the hair that had moved the table. The promptness of my negative probably satisfied him that my notion was a very different one.
The superhuman power of the spirits was next dwelt upon. The strength of man, it was stated, was unavailing in opposition to theirs. No human power could prevent the table from moving when they pulled it. During the evening this pulling of the table occurred, or rather was attempted, three times. Twice the table moved when my attention was withdrawn from it; on a third occasion, I tried whether the act could be provoked by an assumed air of inattention. Grasping the table firmly between my knees, I threw myself back in the chair, and waited, with eyes fixed on vacancy, for the pull. It came. For some seconds it was pull spirit, hold muscle; the muscle, however, prevailed, and the table remained at rest. Up to the present moment, this interesting fact is known only to the particular spirit in question and myself.
A species of mental scene-painting, with which my own pursuits had long rendered me familiar, was employed to figure the changes and distribution of spiritual power. The spirits, it was alleged, were provided with atmospheres, which combined with and interpenetrated each other, and considerable ingenuity was shown in demonstrating the necessity of time in effecting the adjustment of the atmospheres. A rearrangement of our positions was proposed and carried out; and soon afterwards my attention was drawn to a scarcely sensible vibration on the part of the table. Several persons were leaning on the table at the time, and I asked permission to touch the medium's hand. 'Oh! I know I tremble,' was her reply. Throwing one leg across the other, I accidentally nipped a muscle, and produced thereby an involuntary vibration of the free leg. This vibration, I knew, must be communicated to the floor, and thence to the chairs of all present. I therefore intentionally promoted it. My attention was promptly drawn to the motion; and a gentleman beside me, whose value as a witness I was particularly desirous to test, expressed his belief that it was out of the compass of human power to produce so strange a tremor. 'I believe,' he added, earnestly, 'that it is entirely the spirits' work.' 'So do I,' added, with heat, the candid and warmhearted old gentleman A. 'Why, sir,' he continued, 'I feel them at this moment shaking my chair.' I stopped the motion of the leg. 'Now, sir,' A. exclaimed, 'they are gone.' I began again, and A. once more affirmed their presence. I could, however, notice that there were doubters present, who did not quite know what to think of the manifestations. I saw their perplexity; and, as there was sufficient reason to believe that the disclosure of the secret would simply provoke anger, I kept it to myself.
Again a period of conversation intervened, during which the spirits became animated. The evening was confessedly a dull one, but matters appeared to brighten towards its close. The spirits were requested to spell the name by which I was known in the heavenly world. Our host commenced repeating the alphabet, and when he reached the letter 'P' a knock was heard. He began again, and the spirits knocked at the letter 'O.' I was puzzled, but waited for the end. The next letter knocked down was 'E.' I laughed, and remarked that the spirits were going to make a poet of me. Admonished for my levity, I was informed that the frame of mind proper for the occasion ought to have been superinduced by a perusal of the Bible immediately before the seance. The spelling, however, went on, and sure enough I came out a poet. But matters did not end here. Our host continued his repetition of the alphabet, and the next letter of the name proved to be '0.' Here was manifestly an unfinished word; and the spirits were apparently in their most communicative mood. The knocks came from under the table, but no person present evinced the slightest desire to look under it. I asked whether I might go underneath; the permission was granted; so I crept under the table. Some tittered; but the candid old A. exclaimed, 'He has a right to look into the very dregs of it, to convince himself.' Having pretty well assured myself that no sound could be produced under the table without its origin being revealed, I requested our host to continued his questions. He did so, but in vain. He adopted a tone of tender entreaty; but the 'dear spirits' had become dumb dogs, and refused to be entreated. I continued under that table for at least a quarter of an hour, after which, with a feeling of despair as regards the prospects of humanity never before experienced, I regained my chair. Once there, the spirits resumed their loquacity, and dubbed me 'Poet of Science.'
This, then, is the result of an attempt made by a scientific man to look into these spiritual phenomena. It is not encouraging; and for this reason. The present promoters of spiritual phenomena divide themselves into two classes, one of which needs no demonstration, while the other is beyond the reach of proof. The victims like to believe, and they do not like to be undeceived. Science is perfectly powerless in the presence of this frame of mind. It is, moreover, a state perfectly compatible with extreme intellectual subtlety and a capacity for devising hypotheses which only require the hardihood engendered by strong conviction, or by callous mendacity, to render them impregnable. The logical feebleness of science is not sufficiently borne in mind. It keeps down the weed of superstition, not by logic but by, slowly rendering the mental soil unfit for its cultivation. When science appeals to uniform experience, the spiritualist will retort, 'How do you know that a uniform experience will continue uniform? You tell me that the sun has risen for six thousand years: that is no proof that it will rise tomorrow; within the next twelve hours it may be puffed out by the Almighty.' Taking this ground, a man may maintain the story of 'Jack and the Beanstalk' in the face of all the science in the world. You urge, in vain, that science has given us all the knowledge of the universe which we now possess, while spiritualism has added nothing to that knowledge. The drugged soul is beyond the reach of reason. It is in vain that impostors are exposed, and the special demon cast out. He has but slightly to change his shape, return to his house, and find it 'empty, swept, and garnished.'
Since the time when the foregoing remarks were written I have been more than once among the spirits, at their own invitation. They do not improve on acquaintance. Surely no baser delusion ever obtained dominance over the weak mind of man.
END OF THE FIRST VOLUME.
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In the bright sky they perceived an illuminator; in the all-encircling firmament an embracer; in the roar of thunder and in the violence of the storm they felt the presence of a shouter and of furious strikers; and out of the rain they created an Indra, or giver of rain.—MAX MULLER.
I. REFLECTIONS ON PRAYER AND NATURAL LAW.
AMID the apparent confusion and caprice of natural phenomena, which roused emotions hostile to calm investigation, it must for ages have seemed hopeless to seek for law or orderly relation; and before the thought of law dawned upon the unfolding human mind these otherwise inexplicable effects were referred to personal agency. In the fall of a cataract the savage saw the leap of a spirit, and the echoed thunder-peal was to him the hammer-clang of an exasperated god. Propitiation of these terrible powers was the consequence, and sacrifice was offered to the demons of earth and air.
But observation tends to chasten the emotions and to check those structural efforts of the intellect which have emotion for their base. One by one natural phenomena came to be associated with their proximate causes; the idea of direct personal volition mixing itself with the economy of nature retreating more and more. Many of us fear this change. Our religious feelings are dear to us, and we look with suspicion and dislike on any philosophy, the apparent tendency of which is to dry them up. Probably every change from ancient savagery to our present enlightenment has excited, in a greater or less degree, fears of this kind. But the fact is, that we have not yet determined whether its present form is necessary to the life and warmth of religious feeling. We may err in linking the imperishable with the transitory, and confound the living plant with the decaying pole to which it clings. My object, however, at present is not to argue, but to mark a tendency. We have ceased to propitiate the powers of nature—ceased even to pray for things in manifest contradiction to natural laws. In Protestant countries, at least, I think it is conceded that the age of miracles is past.
At an auberge near the foot of the Rhone glacier, I met, in the summer of 1858, an athletic young priest, who, after a solid breakfast, including a bottle of wine, informed me that he had come up to 'bless the mountains.' This was the annual custom of the place. Year by year the Highest was entreated, by official intercessors, to make such meteorological arrangements as should ensure food and shelter for the flocks and herds of the Valaisians. A diversion of the Rhone, or a deepening of the river's bed, would, at the time I now mention, have been of incalculable benefit to the inhabitants of the valley. But the priest would have shrunk from the idea of asking the Omnipotent to open a new channel for the river, or to cause a portion of it to flow over the Grimsel pass, and down the valley of Oberhasli to Brientz. This he would have deemed a miracle, and he did not come to ask the Creator to perform miracles, but to do something which he manifestly thought lay quite within the bounds of the natural and non-miraculous. A Protestant gentleman who was present at the time smiled at this recital. He had no faith in the priest's blessing; still, he deemed his prayer different in kind from a request to open a new river-cut, or to cause the water to flow up-hill.
In a similar manner the same Protestant gentleman would doubtless smile at the honest Tyrolese priest, who, when he feared the bursting of a glacier dam, offered the sacrifice of the Mass upon the ice as a means of averting the calamity. That poor man did not expect to convert the ice into adamant, or to strengthen its texture, so as to enable it to withstand the pressure of the water; nor did he expect that his sacrifice would cause the stream to roll back upon its source and relieve him, by a miracle, of its presence. But beyond the boundaries of his knowledge lay a region where rain was generated, he knew not how. He was not so presumptuous as to expect a miracle, but he firmly believed that in yonder cloud-land matters could be so arranged, without trespass on the miraculous, that the stream which threatened him and his people should be caused to shrink within its proper bounds.
Both these priests fashioned that which they did not understand to their respective wants and wishes. In their case imagination came into play, uncontrolled by a knowledge of law. A similar state of mind was long prevalent among mechanicians. Many of these, among whom were to be reckoned men of consummate skill, were occupied a century ago with the question of perpetual motion. They aimed at constructing a machine which should execute work without the expenditure of power; and some of them went mad in the pursuit of this object. The faith in such a consummation, involving, as it did, immense personal profit to the inventor, was extremely exciting, and every attempt to destroy this faith was met by bitter resentment on the part of those who held it. Gradually, however, as men became more and more acquainted with the true functions of machinery, the dream dissolved. The hope of getting work out of mere mechanical combinations disappeared: but still there remained for the speculator a cloud-land denser than that which filled the imagination of the Tyrolese priest, and out of which he still hoped to evolve perpetual motion. There was the mystic store of chemic force, which nobody understood; there were heat and light, electricity and magnetism, all competent to produce mechanical motion. [Footnote: See Helmholtz: 'Wechselwirkung der Naturkraefte.'] Here, then, was the mine in which our gem must be sought. A modified and more refined form of the ancient faith revived; and, for aught I know, a remnant of sanguine designers may at the present moment be engaged on the problem which like-minded men in former ages left unsolved.
And why should a perpetual motion, even under modern conditions, be impossible? The answer to this question is the statement of that great generalisation of modern science, which is known under the name of the Conservation of Energy. This principle asserts that no power can make its appearance in nature without an equivalent expenditure of some other power; that natural agents are so related to each other as to be mutually convertible, but that no new agency is created. Light runs into heat; heat into electricity; electricity into magnetism; magnetism into mechanical force; and mechanical force again into light and heat. The Proteus changes, but he is ever the same; and his changes in nature, supposing no miracle to supervene, are the expression, not of spontaneity, but of physical necessity. A perpetual motion, then, is deemed impossible, because it demands the creation of energy, whereas the principle of Conservation is—no creation, but infinite conversion.
It is an old remark that the law which moulds a tear also rounds a planet. In the application of law in nature the terms great and small are unknown. Thus the principle referred to teaches us that the Italian wind, gliding over the crest of the Matterhorn, is as firmly ruled as the earth in its orbital revolution round the sun; and that the fall of its vapour into clouds is exactly as much a matter of necessity as the return of the seasons. The dispersion, therefore, of the slightest mist by the special volition of the Eternal, would be as much a miracle as the rolling of the Rhone over the Grimsel precipices, down the valley of Hash to Meyringen and Brientz.
It seems to me quite beyond the present power of science to demonstrate that the Tyrolese priest, or his colleague of the Rhone valley, asked for an 'impossibility' in praying for good weather; but Science can demonstrate the incompleteness of the knowledge of nature which limited their prayers to this narrow ground; and she may lessen the number of instances in which we 'ask amiss,' by showing that we sometimes pray for the performance of a miracle when we do not intend it. She does assert, for example, that without a disturbance of natural law, quite as serious as the stoppage of an eclipse, or the rolling of the river Niagara up the Falls, no act of humiliation, individual or national, could call one shower from heaven, or deflect towards us a single beam of the sun.
Those, therefore, who believe that the miraculous is still active in nature, may, with perfect consistency, join in our periodic prayers for fair weather and for rain: while those who hold that the age of miracles is past, will, if they be consistent, refuse to join in these petitions. And these latter, if they wish to fall back upon such a justification, may fairly urge that the latest conclusions of science are in perfect accordance with the doctrine of the Master himself, which manifestly was that the distribution of natural phenomena is not affected by moral or religious causes. 'He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.' Granting 'the power of Free Will in man,' so strongly claimed by Professor Mansel in his admirable defence of the belief in miracles, and assuming the efficacy of free prayer to produce changes in external nature, it necessarily follows that natural laws are more or less at the mercy of man's volition, and no conclusion founded on the assumed permanence of those laws would be worthy of confidence.
It is a wholesome sign for England that she numbers among her clergy men wise enough to understand all this, and courageous enough to act up to their knowledge. Such men do service to public character, by encouraging a manly and intelligent conflict with the real causes of disease and scarcity, instead of a delusive reliance on supernatural aid. But they have also a value beyond this local and temporary one. They prepare the public mind for changes, which though inevitable, could hardly, without such preparation, be wrought without violence. Iron is strong; still, water in crystallising will shiver an iron envelope, and the more unyielding the metal is, the worse for its safety. There are in the world men who would encompass philosophic speculation by a rigid envelope, hoping thereby to restrain it, but in reality giving it explosive force. In England, thanks to men of the stamp to which I have alluded, scope is gradually given to thought for changes of aggregation, and the envelope slowly alters its form, in accordance with the necessities of the time.
The proximate origin of the foregoing slight article, and probably the remoter origin of the next following one, was this. Some years ago, a day of prayer and humiliation, on account of a bad harvest, was appointed by the proper religious authorities; but certain clergymen of the Church of England, doubting the wisdom of the demonstration, declined to join in the services of the day. For this act of nonconformity they were severely censured by some of their brethren. Rightly or wrongly, my sympathies were on the side of these men; and, to lend them a helping hand in their struggle against odds, I inserted the foregoing chapter in a little book entitled 'Mountaineering in 1861.' Some time subsequently I received from a gentleman of great weight and distinction in the scientific world, and, I believe, of perfect orthodoxy in the religious one, a note directing my attention to an exceedingly thoughtful article on Prayer and Cholera in the 'Pall Mall Gazette.' My eminent correspondent deemed the article a fair answer to the remarks made by me in 1861. I, also, was struck by the temper and ability of the article, but I could not deem its arguments satisfactory, and in a short note to the editor of the 'Pall Mall Gazette' I ventured to state so much. This letter elicited some very able replies, and a second leading article was also devoted to the subject. In answer to all, I risked the publication of a second letter, and soon afterwards, by an extremely courteous note from the editor, the discussion was closed.
Though thus stopped locally, the discussion flowed in other directions. Sermons were preached, essays were published, articles were written, while a copious correspondence occupied the pages of some of the religious newspapers. It gave me sincere pleasure to notice that the discussion, save in a few cases where natural coarseness had the upper hand, was conducted with a minimum of vituperation. The severity shown was hardly more than sufficient to demonstrate earnestness, while gentlemanly feeling was too predominant to permit that earnestness to contract itself to bigotry or to clothe itself in abuse. It was probably the memory of this discussion which caused another excellent friend of mine to recommend to my perusal the exceedingly able work which in the next article I have endeavoured to review.
Mr. Mozley's book belongs to that class of writing of which Butler may be taken as the type. It is strong, genuine argument about difficult matters, fairly tracing what is difficult, fairly trying to grapple, not with what appears the gist and strong point of a question, but with what really at bottom is the knot of it. It is a book the reasoning of which may not satisfy everyone... But we think it is a book for people who wish to see a great subject handled on a scale which befits it, and with a perception of its real elements. It is a book which will have attractions for those who like to see a powerful mind applying itself, without shrinking or holding back, without trick or reserve or show of any kind, as a wrestler closes body to body with his antagonist, to the strength of an adverse and powerful argument.—Times, Tuesday, June 5, 1866.
We should add, that the faults of the work are wholly on the surface and in the arrangement; that the matter is as solid and as logical as that of any book within recent memory, and that it abounds in striking passages, of which we have scarcely been able even to give a sample. No future arguer against miracles can afford to pass it over.—SATURDAY REVIEW, September 15, 1866.
II MIRACLES AND SPECIAL PROVIDENCES.
[Footnote: Fortnightly Review, New Series, vol. i. p. 645.]
IT is my privilege to enjoy the friendship of a select number of religious men, with whom I converse frankly upon theological subjects, expressing without disguise the notions and opinions I entertain regarding their tenets, and hearing in return these notions and opinions subjected to criticism. I have thus far found them liberal and loving men, patient in hearing, tolerant in reply, who know how to reconcile the duties of courtesy with the earnestness of debate. From one of these, nearly a year ago, I received a note, recommending strongly to my attention the volume of 'Bampton Lectures' for 1865, in which the question of miracles is treated by Mr. Mozley. Previous to receiving this note, I had in part made the acquaintance of the work through an able and elaborate review of it in the 'Times.' The combined effect of the letter and the review was to make the book the companion of my summer tour in the Alps. There, during the wet and snowy days which were only too prevalent in 1866, and during the days of rest interpolated between days of toil, I made myself more thoroughly conversant with Mr. Mozley's volume. I found it clear and strong—an intellectual tonic, as bracing and pleasant to my mind as the keen air of the mountains was to my body. From time to time I jotted down thoughts regarding it, intending afterwards to work them up into a coherent whole. Other duties, however, interfered with the complete carrying out of this intention, and what I wrote last summer I now publish, not hoping to be able, within any reasonable time, to render my defence of scientific method more complete.
Mr. Mozley refers at the outset of his task to the movement against miracles which of late years has taken place, and which determined his choice of a subject. He acquits modern science of having had any great share in the production of this movement. The objection against miracles, he says, does not arise from any minute knowledge of the laws of nature, but simply because they are opposed to that plain and obvious order of nature which everybody sees. The present movement is, he thinks, to be ascribed to the greater earnestness and penetration of the present age. Formerly miracles were accepted without question, because without reflection; but the exercise of the 'historic imagination' is a characteristic of our own time. Men are now accustomed to place before themselves vivid images of historic facts; and when a miracle rises to view, they halt before the astounding occurrence, and, realising it with the same clearness as if it were now passing before their eyes, they ask themselves, 'Can this have taken place?' In some instances the effort to answer this question has led to a disbelief in miracles, in others to a strengthening of belief. The aim of Mr. Mozley's lectures is to show that the strengthening of belief is the logical result which ought to follow from the examination of the facts.
Attempts have been made by religious men to bring the Scripture miracles within the scope of the order of nature, but all such attempts are rejected by Mr. Mozley as utterly futile and wide of the mark. Regarding miracles as a necessary accompaniment of a revelation, their evidential value in his eyes depends entirely upon their deviation from the order of nature. Thus deviating, they suggest and illustrate a power higher than nature, a 'personal will;' and they commend the person in whom this power is vested as a messenger from on high. Without these credentials such a messenger would have no right to demand belief, even were his assertions regarding his Divine mission backed by a holy life. Nor is it by miracles alone that the order of nature is, or may be, disturbed. The material universe is also the arena of 'special providences.' Under these two heads Mr. Mozley distributes the total preternatural. One form of the preternatural may shade into the other, as one colour passes into another in the rainbow; but, while the line which divides the specially providential from the miraculous cannot be sharply drawn, their distinction broadly expressed is this: that, while a special providence can only excite surmise more or less probable, it is 'the nature of a miracle to give proof, as distinguished from surmise, of Divine design.'
Mr. Mozley adduces various illustrations of what he regards to be special providences, as distinguished from miracles. 'The death of Arius,' he says, 'was not miraculous, because the coincidence of the death of a heresiarch taking place when it was peculiarly advantageous to the orthodox faith ... was not such as to compel the inference of extraordinary Divine agency; but it was a special providence, because it carried a reasonable appearance of it. The miracle of the Thundering Legion was a special providence, but not a miracle, for the same reason, because the coincidence of an instantaneous fall of rain, in answer to prayer, carried some appearance, but not proof, of preternatural agency.'
The eminent lecturer's remarks on this head brought to my recollection certain narratives published in Methodist magazines, which I used to read with avidity when a boy. The general title of these exciting stories, if I remember right, was 'The Providence of God asserted,' and in them the most extraordinary escapes from peril were recounted and ascribed to prayer, while equally wonderful instances of calamity were adduced as illustrations of Divine retribution. In such magazines, or elsewhere, I found recorded the case of the celebrated Samuel Hick, which, as it illustrates a whole class of special providences approaching in conclusiveness to miracles, is worthy of mention here. It is related of this holy man that, on one occasion, flour was lacking to make the sacramental bread. Grain was present, and a windmill was present, but there was no wind to grind the corn. With faith undoubting, Samuel Hick prayed to the Lord of the winds: the sails turned, the corn was ground, after which the wind ceased. According to the canon of the Bampton Lecturer, this, though carrying a strong appearance of an immediate exertion of Divine energy, lacks by a hair's-breadth the quality of a miracle. For the wind might have arisen, and might have ceased, in the ordinary course of nature. Hence the occurrence did not 'compel the inference of extraordinary Divine agency.' In like manner Mr. Mozley considers that 'the appearance of the cross to Constantine was a miracle, or a special providence, according to what account of it we adopt. As only a meteoric appearance in the shape of a cross it gave some token of preternatural agency, but not full evidence.'
In the Catholic canton of Switzerland where I now write, and still more among the pious Tyrolese, the mountains are dotted with shrines, containing offerings of all kinds, in acknowledgment of special mercies—legs, feet, arms, and hands—of gold, silver, brass, and wood, according as worldly possessions enabled the grateful heart to express its indebtedness. Most of these offerings are made to the Virgin Mary. They are recognitions of 'special providences,' wrought through the instrumentality of the Mother of God. Mr. Mozley's belief, that of the Methodist chronicler, and that of the Tyrolese peasant, are substantially the same. Each of them assumes that nature, instead of flowing ever onward in the uninterrupted rhythm of cause and effect, is mediately ruled by the free human will. As regards direct action upon natural phenomena, man's wish and will, as expressed in prayer, are confessedly powerless; but prayer is the trigger which liberates the Divine power, and to this extent, if the will be free, man, of course, commands nature.
Did the existence of this belief depend solely upon the material benefits derived from it, it could not, in my opinion, last a decade. As a purely objective fact, we should soon see that the distribution of natural phenomena is unaffected by the merits or the demerits of men; that the law of gravitation crushes the simple worshippers of Ottery St. Mary, while singing their hymns, just as surely as if they were engaged in a midnight brawl. The hold of this belief upon the human mind is not due to outward verification, but to the inner warmth, force, and elevation with which it is commonly associated. It is plain, however, that these feelings may exist under the most various forms. They are not limited to Church of England Protestantism—they are not even limited to Christianity. Though less refined, they are certainly not less strong in the heart of the Methodist and the Tyrolese peasant than in the heart of Mr. Mozley. Indeed, those feelings belong to the primal powers of man's nature. A 'sceptic' may have them. They find vent in the battle-cry of the Moslem. They take hue and form in the hunting-grounds of the Red Indian; and raise all of them, as they raise the Christian, upon a wave of victory, above the terrors of the grave.
The character, then, of a miracle, as distinguished from a special providence, is that the former furnishes proof, while in the case of the latter we have only surmise. Dissolve the element of doubt, and the alleged fact passes from the one class of 'the preternatural into the other. In other words, if a special providence could be proved to be a special providence, it would cease to be a special providence and become a miracle. There is not the least cloudiness about Mr. Mozley's meaning here. A special providence is a doubtful miracle. Why, then, not call it so? The term employed by Mr. Mozley conveys no negative suggestion, whereas the negation of certainty is the peculiar characteristic of the thing intended to be expressed. There is an apparent unwillingness on the part of the lecturer to call a special providence what his own definition makes it to be. Instead of speaking of it as a doubtful miracle, he calls it 'an invisible miracle.' He speaks of the point of contact of supernatural power with the chain of causation being so high up as to be wholly, or in part, out of sight, whereas the essence of a special providence is the uncertainty whether there is any contact at all, either high or low. By the use of an incorrect term, however, a grave danger is avoided. For the idea of doubt, if kept systematically before the mind, would soon be fatal to the special providence, considered as a means of edification. The term employed, on the contrary, invites and encourages the trust which is necessary to supplement the evidence.
This inner trust, though at first rejected by Mr. Mozley in favour of external proof, is subsequently called upon to do momentous duty in regard to miracles. Whenever the evidence of the miraculous seems incommensurate with the fact which it has to establish, or rather when the fact is so amazing that hardly any evidence is sufficient to establish it, Mr. Mozley invokes 'the affections.' They must urge the reason to accept the conclusion, from which unaided it recoils. The affections and emotions are eminently the court of appeal in matters of real religion, which is an affair of the heart; but they are not, I submit, the court in which to weigh allegations regarding the credibility of physical facts. These must be judged by the dry light of the intellect alone, appeals to the affections being reserved for cases where moral elevation, and not historic conviction, is the aim. It is, moreover, because the result, in the case under consideration, is deemed desirable that the affections are called upon to back it. If undesirable, they would, with equal right, be called upon to act the other way. Even to the disciplined scientific mind this would be a dangerous doctrine. A favourite theory—the desire to establish or avoid a certain n result—can so warp the mind as to destroy its powers of estimating facts. I have known men to work for years under a fascination of this kind, unable to extricate themselves from its fatal influence. They had certain data, but not, as it happened, enough. By a process exactly analogous to that invoked by Mr. Mozley, they supplemented the data, and went wrong. From that hour their intellects were so blinded to the perception of adverse phenomena that they never reached truth. If, then, to the disciplined scientific mind, this incongruous mixture of proof and trust be fraught with danger, what must it be to the indiscriminate audience which. Mr. Mozley addresses? In calling upon this agency he acts the part of Frankenstein. It is a monster thus evoked that we see stalking abroad, in the degrading spiritualistic phenomena of the present day. Again, I say, where the aim is to elevate the mind, to quicken the moral sense, to kindle the fire of religion in the soul, let the affections by all means be invoked; but they must not be permitted to colour our reports, or to influence our acceptance of reports of occurrences in external nature. Testimony as to natural facts is worthless when wrapped in this atmosphere of the affections; the most earnest subjective truth being thus rendered perfectly compatible with the most astounding objective error.
There are questions in judging of which the affections or sympathies are often our best guides, the estimation of moral goodness being one of these. But at this precise point, where they are really of use, Mr. Mozley excludes the affections and demands a miracle as a certificate of character. He will not accept any other evidence of the perfect goodness of Christ. 'No outward life and conduct,' he says, 'however irreproachable, could prove His perfect sinlessness, because goodness depends upon the inward motive, and the perfection of the inward motive is not proved by the outward act.' But surely the miracle is an outward act, and to pass from it to the inner motive imposes a greater strain upon logic than that involved in our ordinary methods of estimating men. There is, at least, moral congruity between the outward goodness and the inner life, but there is no such congruity between the miracle and the life within. The test of moral goodness laid down by Mr. Mozley is not the test of John, who says, 'He that doeth righteousness is righteous; 'nor is it the test of Jesus: 'By their fruits ye shall know them: do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?' But it is the test of another: 'If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.' For my own part, I prefer the attitude of Fichte to that of Mr. Mozley. The Jesus of John,' says this noble and mighty thinker, knows no other God than the True God, in whom we all are, and live, and may be blessed, and out of whom there is only Death and Nothingness. And,' continues Fichte, 'he appeals, and rightly appeals, in support of this truth, not to reasoning, but to the inward practical sense of truth in man, not even knowing any other proof than this inward testimony, "If any man will do the will of Him who sent Me, he shall know of the doe-trine whether it be of God."'
Accepting Mr. Mozley's test, with which alone I am now dealing, it is evident that, in the demonstration of moral goodness, the quantity of the miraculous comes into play. Had Christ, for example, limited himself to the conversion of water into wine, He would have fallen short of the performance of Jannes and Jambres; for it is a smaller thing to convert one liquid into another than to convert a dead rod into a living serpent. But Jannes and Jambres, we are informed, were not good. Hence, if Mr. Mozley's test be a true one, a point must exist, on the one side of which miraculous power demonstrates goodness, while on the other side it does not. How is this 'point of contrary flexure' to be determined? It must lie somewhere between the magicians and Moses, for within this space the power passed from the diabolical to the Divine. But how to mark the point of passage—how, out of a purely quantitative difference in the visible manifestation of power, we are to infer a total inversion of quality—it is extremely difficult to see. Moses, we are informed, produced a large reptile; Jannes and Jambres produced a small one. I do not possess the intellectual faculty which would enable me to infer, from those data, either the goodness of the one or the badness of the other; and in the highest recorded manifestations of the miraculous I am equally at a loss. Let us not play fast and loose with the miraculous; either it is a demonstration of goodness in all cases or in none. If Mr. Mozley accepts Christ's goodness as transcendent, because He did such works as no other man did, he ought, logically speaking, to accept the works of those who, in His name, had cast out devils, as demonstrating a proportionate goodness on their part. But it is people of this class who are consigned to ever-lasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels. Such zeal as that of Mr. Mozley for miracles tends, I fear, to eat his religion up. The logical threatens to stifles the spiritual. The truly religious soul needs no miraculous proof of the goodness of Christ. The words addressed to Matthew at the receipt of custom required no miracle to produce obedience. It was by no stroke of the supernatural that Jesus caused those sent to seize Him to go backward and fall to the ground. It was the sublime and holy effluence from within, which needed no prodigy to commend it to the reverence even of his foes.
As regards the function of miracles in the founding of a religion, Mr. Mozley institutes a comparison between the religion of Christ and that of Mahomet; and he derides the latter as 'irrational' because it does not profess to adduce miracles in proof of its supernatural origin. But the religion of Mahomet, notwithstanding this drawback, has thriven in the world, and at one time it held sway over larger populations than Christianity itself. The spread and influence of Christianity are, however, brought forward by Mr. Mozley as 'a permanent, enormous, and incalculable practical result' of Christian miracles; and he makes use of this result to strengthen his plea for the miraculous. His logical warrant for this proceeding is not clear. It is the method of science, when a phenomenon presents itself, towards the production of which several elements may contribute, to exclude them one by one, so as to arrive at length at the truly effective cause. Heat, for example, is associated with a phenomenon; we exclude heat, but the phenomenon remains: hence, heat is not its cause. Magnetism is associated with a phenomenon; we exclude magnetism, but the phenomenon remains: hence, magnetism is not its cause. Thus, also, when we seek the cause of a diffusion of a religion—whether it be due to miracles, or to the spiritual force of its founders—we exclude the miracles, and, finding the result unchanged, we infer that miracles are not the effective cause. This important experiment Mahometanism has made for us. It has lived and spread without miracles; and to assert, in the face of this, that Christianity has spread because of miracles, is, I submit, opposed both to the spirit of science and the common sense of mankind.
The incongruity of inferring moral goodness from miraculous power has been dwelt upon above; in another particular also the strain put by Mr. Mozley upon miracles is, I think, more than they can bear. In consistency with his principles, it is difficult to see how he is to draw from the miracles of Christ any certain conclusion as to His Divine nature. He dwells very forcibly on what he calls 'the argument from experience,' in the demolition of which he takes obvious delight. He destroys the argument, and repeats it, for the mere Pleasure of again and again knocking the breath out of it. Experience, he urges, can only deal with the past; and the moment we attempt to project experience a hair's-breadth beyond the point it has at any moment reached, we are condemned by reason. It appears to me that when he infers from Christ's miracles a Divine and altogether superhuman energy, Mr. Mozley places himself precisely under this condemnation. For what is his logical ground for concluding that the miracles of the New Testament illustrate Divine power? May they not be the result of expanded human power? A miracle he defines as something impossible to man. But how does he know that the miracles of the New Testament are impossible to man? Seek as he may, he has absolutely no reason to adduce save this—that man has never hitherto accomplished such things. But does the fact that man has never raised the dead prove that he can never raise the dead? 'Assuredly not,' must be Mr. Mozley's reply; 'for this would be pushing experience beyond the limit it has now reached—which I pronounce unlawful.' Then a period may come when man will be able to raise the dead. If this be conceded—and I do not see how Mr. Mozley can avoid the concession—it destroys the necessity of inferring Christ's Divinity from His miracles. He, it may be contended, antedated the humanity of the future; as a mighty tidal wave leaves high upon the beach a mark which by-and-by becomes the general level of the ocean. Turn the matter as you will, no other warrant will be found for the all-important conclusion that Christ's miracles demonstrate Divine power, than an argument which has been stigmatised by Mr. Mozley as a 'rope of sand'—the argument from experience.
The learned Bampton Lecturer would be in this position, even had he seen with his own eyes every miracle recorded in the New Testament. But he has, not seen these miracles; and his intellectual plight is therefore worse. He accepts these miracles on testimony. Why does he believe that testimony? How does he know that it is not delusion; how is he sure that it is not even fraud? He will answer, that the writing bears the marks of sobriety and truth; and that in many cases the bearers of this message to mankind sealed it with their blood. Granted with all my heart; but whence the value of all this? Is it not solely derived from the fact that men, as we know them, do not sacrifice their lives in the attestation of that which they know to be untrue? Does not the entire value of the testimony of the Apostles depend ultimately upon our experience of human nature? It appears, then, that those said to have seen the miracles, based their inferences from what they saw on the argument from experience; and that Mr. Mozley bases his belief in their testimony on the same argument. The weakness of his conclusion is quadrupled by this double insertion of a principle of belief, to which he flatly denies rationality. His reasoning, in fact, cuts two ways—if it destroys our trust in the order of nature, it far more effectually abolishes the basis on which Mr. Mozley seeks to found the Christian religion.
Over this argument from experience, which at bottom is his argument, Mr. Mozley rides rough-shod. There is a dash of scorn in the energy with which he tramples on it. Probably some previous writer had made too much of it, and thus invited his powerful assault. Finding the difficulty of belief in miracles to rise from their being in contradiction to the order of nature, he sets himself to examine the grounds of our belief in that order. With a vigour of logic rarely equalled, and with a confidence in its conclusions never surpassed, he disposes of this belief in a manner calculated to startle those who, without due examination, had come to the conclusion that the order of nature was secure. What we mean, he says, by our belief in the order of nature, is the belief that the future will be like the past. There is not, according to Mr. Mozley, the slightest rational basis for this belief.
That any cause in nature is more permanent than its existing and known effects, extending further, and about to produce other and more instances besides what it has produced already, we have no evidence. Let us imagine,' he continues, 'the occurrence of a particular physical phenomenon for the first time. Upon that single occurrence we should have but the very faintest expectation of another. If it did occur again, once or twice, so far from counting on another occurrence, a cessation would occur as the most natural event to us. But let it continue one hundred times, and we should find no hesitation in inviting persons from a distance to see it; and if it occurred every day for years, its occurrence would be a certainty to us, its cessation a marvel... What ground of reason can we assign for an expectation that any part of the course of nature will be the next moment what it has been up to this moment, i.e. for our belief in the uniformity of nature? None. No demonstrative reason can be given, for the contrary to the recurrence of a fact of nature is no contradiction. No probable reason can be given; for all probable reasoning respecting the course of nature is founded upon this presumption of likeness, and therefore cannot be the foundation of it. No reason can be given for this belief. It is without a reason. It rests upon no rational grounds, and can be traced to no rational principle.'
'Everything,' Mr. Mozley, however, adds, 'depends upon this belief, every provision we make for the future, every safeguard and caution we employ against it, all calculation, all adjustment of means to ends, supposes this belief; and yet this belief has no more producible reason for it than a speculation of fancy. It is necessary, all-important for the purposes of life, but solely practical, and possesses no intellectual character.
'... The proper function,' continues Mr. Mozley, 'of the inductive principle, the argument from experience, the belief in the order of nature—by whatever phrase we designate the same instinct—is to operate as a practical basis for the affairs of life and the carrying on of human society.' To sum up, the belief in the order of nature is general, but it is 'an unintelligent impulse, of which we can give no rational account.' It is inserted into our constitution solely to induce us to till our fields, to raise our winter fuel, and thus to meet the future on the perfectly gratuitous supposition that it will be like the past.
'Thus, step by step,' says Mr. Mozley, with the emphasis of a man who feels his position to be a strong one, 'has philosophy loosened the connection of the order of nature with the ground of reason, befriending in exact proportion as it has done this the principle of miracles.' For 'this belief not having itself a foundation in reason, the ground is gone upon which it could be maintained that miracles, as opposed to the order of nature, are opposed to reason.' When we regard this belief in connection with science, 'in which connection it receives a more imposing name, and is called the inductive principle,' the result is the same. 'The inductive principle is only this unreasoning impulse applied to a scientifically ascertained fact... Science has led up to the fact; but there it stops, and for converting this fact into a law, a totally unscientific principle comes into play, the same as that which generalises the commonest observation of nature.'
The eloquent pleader of the cause of miracles passes over without a word the results of scientific investigation, as proving anything rational regarding the principles or method by which such results have been achieved. Here, as elsewhere, he declines the test, 'By their fruits shall ye know them.' Perhaps our best way of proceeding will be to give one or two examples of the mode in which men of science apply the unintelligent impulse with which Mr. Mozley credits them, and which shall show, by illustration, the surreptitious method whereby they climb from the region of facts to that of laws.
Before the sixteenth century it was known that water rises in a pump; the effect being then explained by the maxim that 'Nature abhors a vacuum.' It was not known that there was any limit to the height to which the water would ascend, until, on one occasion, the gardeners of Florence, while attempting to raise water to a very great elevation, found that the column ceased at a height of thirty-two feet. Beyond this all the skill of the pump-maker could not get it to rise. The fact was brought to the notice of Galileo, and he, soured by a world which had not treated his science over kindly, is said to have twitted the philosophy of the time by remarking that nature evidently abhorred a vacuum only to a height of thirty-two feet. Galileo, however, did not solve the problem. It was taken up by his pupil Torricelli, to whom, after due pondering, the thought occurred, that the water might be forced into the tube by a pressure applied to the surface of the liquid outside. But where, under the actual circumstances, was such a pressure to be found? After much reflection, it flashed upon Torricelli that the atmosphere might possibly exert this pressure; that the impalpable air might possess weight, and that a column of water thirty-two feet high might be of the exact weight necessary to hold the pressure of the atmosphere in equilibrium.
There is much in this process of pondering and its results which it is impossible to analyse. It is by a kind of inspiration that we rise from the wise and sedulous contemplation of facts to the principles on which they depend. The mind is, as it were, a photographic plate, which is gradually cleansed by the effort to think rightly, and which, when so cleansed, and not before, receives impressions from the light of truth. This passage from 'facts to principles is called induction; and induction, in its highest form, is, as I have just stated, a kind of inspiration. But, to make it sure, the inward sight must be shown to be in accordance with outward fact. To prove or disprove the induction, we must resort to deduction and experiment.
Torricelli reasoned thus: If a column of water thirty-two feet high holds the pressure of the atmosphere in equilibrium, a shorter column of a heavier liquid ought to do the same. Now, mercury is thirteen times heavier than water; hence, if my induction be correct, the atmosphere ought to be able to sustain only thirty inches of mercury. Here, then, is a deduction which can be immediately submitted to experiment. Torricelli took a glass tube a yard or so in length, closed at one end and open at the other, and filling it with mercury, he stopped the open end with his thumb, and inverted it into a basin filled with the liquid metal. One can imagine the feeling with which Torricelli removed his thumb, and the delight he experienced on finding that his thought had forestalled a fact never before revealed to human eyes. The column sank, but it ceased to sink at a height of thirty inches, leaving the Torricellian vacuum over-head. From that hour the theory of the pump was established.
The celebrated Pascal followed Torricelli with another deduction. He reasoned thus: If the mercurial column be supported by the atmosphere, the higher we ascend in the air, the lower the column ought to sink, for the less will be the weight of the air overhead. He caused a friend to ascend the Puy de Dome, carrying with him a barometric column; and it was found that during the ascent the column sank, and that during the subsequent descent the column rose.
Between the time here referred to and the present, millions of experiments have been made upon this subject. Every village pump is an apparatus for such experiments. In thousands of instances, moreover, pumps have refused to work; but on examination it has infallibly been found that the well was dry, that the pump required priming, or that some other defect in the apparatus accounted for the anomalous action. In every case of the kind the skill of the pump-maker has been found to be the true remedy. In no case has the pressure of the atmosphere ceased; constancy, as regards the lifting of pump-water, has been hitherto the demonstrated rule of nature. So also as regards Pascal's experiment. His experience has been the universal experience ever since. Men have climbed mountains, and gone up in balloons; but no deviation from Pascal's result has ever been observed. Barometers, like pumps, have refused to act; but instead of indicating any suspension of the operations of nature, or any interference on the part of its Author with atmospheric pressure, examination has in every instance fixed the anomaly upon the instruments themselves. It is this welding, then, of rigid logic to verifying fact that Mr. Mozley refers to an 'unreasoning impulse.'
Let us now briefly consider the case of Newton. Before his time men had occupied themselves with the problem of the solar system. Kepler had deduced, from a vast mass of observations, those general expressions of planetary motion known as 'Kepler's laws.' It had been observed that a magnet attracts iron; and by one of those flashes of inspiration which reveal to the human mind the vast in the minute, the general in the particular, it had been inferred, that the force by which bodies fall to the earth might also be an attraction. Newton pondered all these things. He looked, as was his wont, into the darkness until it became entirely luminous. How this light arises we cannot explain; but, as a matter of fact, it does arise. Let me remark here, that this kind of pondering is a process with which the ancients could have been but imperfectly acquainted. They, for the most part, found the exercise of fantasy more pleasant than careful observation, and subsequent brooding over facts. Hence it is, that when those whose education has been derived from the ancients speak of 'the reason of man,' they are apt to omit from their conception of reason one of its most important factors.
Well, Newton slowly marshalled his thoughts, or rather they came to him while he 'intended his mind,' rising like a series of intellectual births out of chaos. He made this idea of attraction his own. But, to apply the idea to the solar system, it was necessary to know the magnitude of the attraction, and the law of its variation with the distance. His conceptions first of all passed from the action of the earth as a whole, to that of its constituent particles. And persistent thought brought more and more clearly out the final conclusion, that every particle of matter attracts every other particle with a force varying inversely as the square of the distance between the particles.
Here we have the flower and outcome of Newton's induction; and how to verify it, or to disprove it, was the next question. The first step of the philosopher in this direction was to prove, mathematically, that if this law of attraction be the true one; if the earth be constituted of particles which obey this law; then the action of a sphere equal to the earth in size on a body outside of it, is the same as that which would be exerted if the whole mass of the sphere were contracted to a point at its centre. Practically speaking, then, the centre of the earth is the point from which distances must be measured to bodies attracted by the earth.
From experiments executed before his time, Newton knew the amount of the earth's attraction at the earth's surface, or at a distance of 4,000 miles from its centre. His object now was to measure the attraction at a greater distance, and thus to determine the law of its diminution. But how was he to find a body at a sufficient distance? He had no balloon? and even if he had, he knew that any height to which he could attain would be too small to enable him to solve his problem. What did he do? He fixed his thoughts upon the moon;—a body 240,000 miles, or sixty times the earth's radius, from the earth's centre. He virtually weighed the moon, and found that weight to be 1/3600th of what it would be at the earth's surface. This is exactly what his theory required. I will not dwell here upon the pause of Newton after his first calculations, or speak of his self-denial in withholding them because they did not quite agree with the observations then at his command. Newton's action in this matter is the normal action of the scientific mind. If it were otherwise—if scientific men were not accustomed to demand verification—if they were satisfied with the imperfect while the perfect is attainable, their science, instead of being, as it is, a fortress of adamant, would be a house of clay, ill-fitted to bear the buffetings of the theologic storms to which it is periodically exposed.