95a North View Road, N.8.
You have not accurately read my letter which you print in the May “S.S.” I wrote that Flammarion had not said that the claims of Spiritists are unfounded. Will you quote a passage in which he does say such claims are unfounded? What you allege to be Flammarion’s position, would not— even if true, which it is not—controvert my guarded statement. But I think you are confusing Flammarion with Professor Richet, because Flammarion says :—
“The occurrences cited prove that there is no death. . . . These phenomena convince us also that the soul manifests itself after death.” (After Death, by Camille Flammarion.)
With regard to “Great Men,” I would point out that, in all subjects, we rely on specialists, experts and authorities. For example, the name of the great Marx appears on nearly every page of the “S.S.”
Your remark to the effect that children are better acquainted with inductive logic than Sir William Crookes and Sir Oliver Lodge is certainly original ! ! !
GEO. T. FOSTER.
OUR REPLY TO MR. FOSTER.
Mr. Foster’s position is that of a man who, having stepped into a bog, finds himself sinking further in the mud at each attempt to struggle out.
The statement in his first letter was a loose general one—namely, that Flammarion, etc., “do not say that the claims of spiritualists are baseless, but rather the contrary.”
What are the claims of spiritualists?
As Mr. Foster has not “guarded” his statement by any limitation or qualification, the only meaning left is “all the claims of spiritualists.” That Mr. Foster wished the reader to understand his statement in this sense is shown by his linking Flammarion’s name with Sir Oliver Lodge, Sir William Crookes and Sir William Barrett—all avowed spiritualists. That Flammarion believes in life after death does not make him a spiritualist. Millions of people who hold this belief are bitter opponents of spiritists and spiritism.
Flammarion is not a spiritist. He rejects many of their claims, particularly in reference to mediums. Numerous quotations could be given to prove this, but the following will establish our point : —
“But all mediums, men and women, have to be watched. During a period of more than forty years I believe that I have received at my home nearly all of them, men and women of divers nationalities and from every quarter of the globe. One may lay it down as a principle that all professional mediums cheat. But they do not always cheat ; and they possess real, undeniable, psychic powers.
“Their case is nearly that of the hysterical folk under observation at the Salpétrière or elsewhere. I have seen some of them outwit with their profound craft not only Dr. Charcot, but especially Dr. Luys, and all the physicians who make a study of their case.” (Mysterious Psychic Forces, pp. 3 and 4.)
Thus, according to Flammarion, these mediums are “nearly” lunatics !
Another example can be taken from the book Mr. Foster quotes. After describing the type of conversation purported to be given by spirits at séances, and gently jeering at the spiritists who believe this sort of thing, he says :—
“If this is what is called being a spiritist we can say we are not spiritists.” (After Death, p. 344.)
As an example of the sloppiness of Mr. Foster’s methods, we may point out that he does not give the page from which he has taken the quotation from After Death. The reader who is not acquainted with this work will naturally think that as the quotation is inside one set of quotation marks, it all comes from one paragraph. This is not so. The first phrase, from which a clause has been omitted, is taken from page 346, while the second phrase is taken from page 348.
A child can see that his reference to “specialists, experts and authorities” does not touch our exposure of the emptiness of the case of those who rely on the names of “Great Men” to take the place of evidence. As pointed out in our previous reply, it is a matter of evidence—not names. “Specialists, experts and authorities” are those who have made discoveries in, or special studies of, the subject in which they are “expert.” The real “experts” on mediums, and séances are the first-class conjurers, like Maskelyne and Devant, and their views are well known. Neither Lodge, Crookes, Barrett, nor Flammarion, are even amateurs at conjuring, and their words on these matters are worth no more, if as much as, the ordinary man in the street.
The statement in Mr. Foster’s last paragraph is “certainly original.” So “original” in fact, that it has never appeared in the SOCIALIST STANDARD before, either from myself or anybody else.