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Tyndall, John – Science and the Spirits – 05 The table was pushed. Attention was drawn to the wine, still oscillating in the glasses, and I was asked whether that was not convincing

Identifier

024816

Type of Spiritual Experience

Background

 “Somewhat weary of the proceedings, I once threw myself back against my chair and gazed listlessly out of the window”, well that is the sign of a true scientist isn’t it? 

‘What a bore, I can’t be bothered to observe anything any more, what is more I will show my boredom to all the others in the rudest way possible’. 

A more egotistic and egocentric attitude one cannot have been more unfortunate to meet. 

Mr Alexander does not sound too impressed either.

A description of the experience

SCIENCE AND THE "SPIRITS”

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.

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Spiritualism:  A Narrative with a Discussion – Patrick Proctor Alexander
APPENDIX.  Professor Tyndall 'on science and spirits: ‘

A distinct push having come to the table. Professor Tyndall writes :

“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 the 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.”.

There seems really no reason it should have been, being, as it was, so highly questionable. The odds are about ten to one that the glass used by Professor Tyndall the second time was the very same glass he had before used ; in which case the “uniformity of Nature” might have led us to expect that the ‘peculiar buzzing sound' would have made itself audible to the company in the first as in the second experiment.

 Yet it should seem not to have done so — a point which a little requires explanation.

Selecting from various wine-glasses some specimens not 'level in the rim' — i.e, the rim of which is not throughout its circumference in contact with the surface of the table — I have carefully tried the experiment, the result in every case being, that no vibration whatever was induced. Putting my ear down towards the glass, and working my hair and whiskers against it, much more vigorously than Professor Tyndall could have done in the circumstances, I am sensible of the faintest griding sound of the hair against the glass; but, as quite unaccompanied by vibration, it is not sensibly diminished when I prohibit all possible vibration by clasping tight the bell of the glass, and pressing it on the table. And so faint is this sound in the ear held close to the glass, that it must needs be well-nigh inaudible to the ear of anyone else ; and is not without absurdity to be supposed heard as “a peculiar buzzing sound” by people all round the table. Consequently, until I shall hear this “peculiar buzzing sound” produced in the way described by Professor Tyndall, or by someone else, I must beg utterly to doubt of its existence, as so produced.

Of the existence of the sound we can have no doubt ; it was heard by ‘the warm-hearted old gentleman,’ who had his own little theory of the matter ; it was also heard by Professor Tyndall, who at once jumped to a theory of it : as it was synchronous with the contact of his hair with the wine-glass, he at once assumed the relation of the facts to be that of cause and effect.

His explanation, however, it seems, ‘was not well received' by the company. At this I don't greatly wonder, as meantime much of the company's mind, and quite declining to receive it. I say meantime declining, as meantime disposed to rest on the accuracy of my own little course of experiment. The experiment is an exceedingly simple one ; and every reader, per aid of a wine-glass and a mahogany table, may verify for himself my results, as compared with those of Dr. Tyndall.

* Note a little point here : ‘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 '. We may thus almost assume that a cloth would be upon the table ; and with this condition, I have the highest Scientific authority for saying that the phenomenon would be absolutely impossible.

The source of the experience

Tyndall, John

Concepts, symbols and science items

Symbols

Science Items

Activities and commonsteps

Activities

Commonsteps

References