ABSTRACT

W HEN the Society for Psychical Research did me the honour of making me their President they chose, presumably with their eyes open, a professional philosopher with very little

All of us are aware that our subject differs from most others in the following important respect. It is much harder for us than for workers in other experimental fields to get any empirical facts or first-order generalizations established and universally admitted. No one doubts, e.g. that light is sometimes reflected and sometimes refracted; so the physicist can go on at once to seek for the laws of reftexion and refraction and the conditions under which such events take place. But contrast our position in respect of supernormal cognition. For my own part I have no doubt that telepathy among normal human beings happens from time to time. And it is quite clear to me that, in order to account for the information which is sometimes conveyed by good trance-mediums and automatic writers, a very extensive and peculiar telepathy among the living is the very least that must be postulated. Probably most, if not all, of those here would agree with me. But we know quite well that most scientists and the bulk of the general public would not admit this for an instant. And we know that this is not because they have looked into the evidence and found it faulty or have suggested plausible alternative explanations. They would no more think of looking into the evidence for telepathy than a pious Christian thinks of looking into the evidence for Mahometanism, or a pious Mahometan oflooking into the evidence for Christianity. When we leave telepathy and pass to other forms of supernormal cognition there is no agreement even among ourselves. Many of us would say that non-inferential foreknowledge of an event is plainly impossible, and that no evidence could convince us of it. And many ofus would feel that the modus operandi ofpure

clairvoyanceorofnon-inferentialcognitionofpasteventsbya personwhoneverwitnessedthemissodifficulttoconceivethat wecouldhardlybepersuadedoftheoccurrenceofsuch-cognition.