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THOUGHT- READING. A Paper read he/ore the Mciiai Society, Bangor, by Mr E. Ilurreji Harding. Mr Chairman, Ladies, and Geuttem en,—About twenty years ago, mesmerism gained a large share of public attention, which was thus for the first time drawn to consider the nature of those phenomena since added to by spiritualism and thought reading. The virions stages which public opinion passed through on the subject of mes- merism are worth considering. For a brief time it was received with a blind credulity, th influence of mind upon mind was the cause of much fear, and "private dislikes" and "undue influence" were thought to be explained. Novelists reaped a goodly harvest by exercising their inveutive powers on mesmerism and second sight, and public enter- tainers were provided with a new draw. Then came the reaction. Public opinion went to the other extreme. All was trikery, and the profes- sors of mesmerism were classed with fortune- telling gipsies. Now popular opinion has adopted a medium course. We believe that a very large portion cf so-called mesmerism is but trickery, impudently performed and blindly received but still it is generally admitted by scientists that in mesmerism there is a substratum of truth-meso roeric trances and unknown actions are accepted mesmerism is a fact. Thus public opinion passed through three stages on the subject of mesmerism: i—1. Blind acceptance; 2. Total rfj .«.t'on; 3. A belief in the principles, but with limited applica- tion. Let us for a minute examine th. elates of so-called mesmerism. We are all of us well ac- quainted with the travelling professors who appear tor one week only." The first part of their entertainment generally is advertized as conjuring or other trickery, but the finish, the mesmeric part, is generally thrown in as a scientific aad real experiment. I need hardly give my opinion that in the great majority of caRes tk:s so-called mes- merism is nothing more or less than imposture. True mesmerism is not often met with in public halls, and those who have the gift are more fearful of it than desirous of using it. At least, such is the opinion of a lady friend of mine, who once sent her brother into a trance from which she was for hours powerless to wake him. Bat there is a third kind of mesmerism, that which is often believed by its performers to be mesmerism, but is net If the eyes be fix d in a stra'ned manner for a long time upon any object, the netves be- come fatigued, and the subject is largdy in the power of the operator, not because his will is less powerful, but bacause he ia too tired to resist. If a thread be run through a cork, the cork thereby fixed to the forehead, and the eyes fixed upon it for seVetttl minutes, the nerves become exhausted, and if a second person close the subject's eyes, they cannot for some time b-j opentd. This is mesmerism as usually performed, and it" patients J believe it to be such. RM l' n it is nothing of the kind, but a species of nuvo paralysis. Thrs there are three kinds of so called mesmerism:—1. Im- posture: 2. True mesmerism; 3. A species of p'aralyeis believed to be mesmerism, but not really such. Although all that has been sail above I deals with mesmerism, I believe that almost the I whole of it is equally true with xefeienco to thought-reading. First, then, is there such a thing 68 true thought-reading ? Before answering this question let us be careful to define true thought-reading. I take it that the term really means the reading of one mind by another. Now much so-called thought reading is not thought-reading at all. I A iittle girl has lately caused much sen3ation by the manner in which she seems to decipher cards placed face downwards She may be blind-folded, and the cards placed on a table above her head, yet she mentally see them. Now this, although called thought reading, need not really be such, but rather a kind of penetrative sight. So also with some of the experiments made by the Society of Psychic Research. W hen a gentleman who holds a numbsr of elips of paper, on each of which a design is drawn, is seated opposite to another gentleman who draws with tolerable accuracy the design the first happens to be looking at, I maintain that thought-reading may have nothing to do with the question, but it is rather another case of penetrative sight. Although what I have termed penetrative sight does not proparly belong to my subject this evening, let us for a moment consider one of it;i aspects, in order to afterwards apply the result to true thought- reading, if such there be. We may divide all substances into two classes—transparent and opaque. Glass may be taken as an example of the ti-st class, and gold of the second. Nevertheless, geld- Ieaf may be thin enough to be seen through. In other words, all substances are transparent if ren- dered sufficiently thin. Now the sight of different persons' eyes gr atly differs, and who cau posi- tively say that the above-mentioned child does not see through the table and the bandage on her eyes ? What is the exact thickness at which the wood of the table refuses to allow sulficieut ether vibrations (i.e., light) to pass through it to affect the eye. No one can say. Scientifically, we cannot say that the thing is impossible; we can only say that it is highly improbable. This is the opinion I hold with regard to true thought-read- ing: I believe it to be scientifically possible, but highly improbable. The possibility lies, I think, in tho consideration of the following points:—In the same way that a red-hot poke; has its particles, and the ether mixed up with them, in a state of rapid motion, so also there is little doubt that thought is accompanied by movements of brain suhstance and of ether. In the same way that a poker radiates its heat (i e,, its motion) Into the space around it, so it is pcssible for the brain to radiate its motion into the ether of the space around. In the same wtty that a person putting his hand near a poker feel3 warm becaufo he receives the radiated motion, so it may, perhaps, be possible for a person standing near another to be affected by the motion radiated from that other's brain. This last link is the weakest in the chain, and the chief argument brought against it is that we are not aware of any organ in the body capable of receiving these vibrations. The vibra- tions which we call sound are received by a special organ-tbc ear, and flight by the eye; but we are not aware of any special organ to receive brain vibrations. Too much stress, however, must not be Ittid upon this argument, for we have no special I organ to receive heat cr electricity in fact, they can be received by the nerves spread ai over tha body. If these nerves can receive the ether vibra- tions of heat, they also might receive the ether vibrations emanating from the brain. However, although all this may be possible, I do not think it very probable, and alao think it a great pity that the exponents of thought-reading so often devote part of their entertalnmant to conjuring tricks, thus infusing a sceptical spirit joty the audience, while at the same time they accompany their ex. hibitions with gestures which either mean nothing at all, or else are meant to gain unfair aid. I must say a word with regard to another method of thought-reading. It is by no means rare for two close friends to seem instructively to read each other's thoughts. This, however, may in many cases be possibly explained thus:—They are so used to each other's company as to have got iuto the style and logical order of each other's thoughts. Thus the last sentence spoken, or last subject mentioned, will lead each to the same chain of thought; link by link they think independently along the same chain, to arrive at last by the same outspoken sentence at the other end. This is not thought- reading, but thought linking. Secondly, thought-reading is no doubt often done by mere trickery. Confederates, signs, electricity, or mechanical agency no doubt are often used. Maskelyo" and Dr Lynn perform imitation thought Mading. Mr Henry Lewis and myself have often performed successfully in private, not so successfully in public. Thought- reading may be done by mere oonj uiring, a-uch as I will now try to give you an examplo of. [Mr Henry Lewis here succeeded in discovering any number mentioned privately to Mr Harding by the audience. It was then explained that a secret telegraph of one wink was the mode of trickery, Messrs Lewis and Harding having so trained themselves as t3 mentally keep t'me with each other in counting. After this, slips of paper were dibtributed to the audience, who were requested to write down the names of noted men. The papers were then collected in a box, and one slip being drawn by a person selected by the audience, Mr Harding at once declared the name written on the paper. The trick was then explained. Thirdly, thought-reading may be performed through the medium of unconscious muscular action. It is a very difficult thing even to stand still, and almost impossible to keep all the exterior muscles rigid. A person who has thought of a number unconsciously brings his lips into Dositkn for pronouncing the (first syllable, and some clue is doubtless given in almost every case. This is believed to be the explanation of table-turning. A number of persons sit down at a table, and rest their extended hands on the table with their little fingers and thumbs touching, thus forming a circle on the top cf the table. Shortly the table begins to revolve or tilt, end this is 3..d to be done by spirits." If you are an unbeliever, the spirits won't attend your call. The fact ia, that if you are an unbeliever you probably will exert no pressure on the table if a believer you will quite unconsciously press the table in the diroction in which you wish it to move. The table will probably move towards the direction in which it is worst supported by ita legs. That this unconscious muscular action is a fact may be proved by the following experiment. Tie a heavy key at the end of a piece of cotton, and hold it out at arm's length. Wish the key to move in auy onj direc- tion, but keep the arm as still as possible. Never. theless the key will move as des'red, the reason being that an unconscious swing accompanied the wish. Of course, the wish must be a true one, and not like that of the old lady who, after reading of the power of faith to remove mountains, prayed that Sno-don might be removed, and awoke next me,, niag to find it still standing, while she ex- claimed, Ah I knew it wouldn't move." [The experiment was hero performed.] But suppose the table is one equally supported in each direc- tion, and the performers wish one against the other, what then ? It has been pretty ell proved that in breathing our arms move unequally, and thus the ring of parsons round tho table exert un- equal pressure, and all in the same direction. I shall now try to decipher what number a person has thought of. by noticing his unconscious mus- cular action. [Nine numbers were here on I a piece of paper, and choosing a person from the audience, Mr Harding took him b/ the hand, and asked him to fix his attention on one of the nine numbers. Mr Harding then pointed to each of the numbers in turn, asking the person to give no sign as to which he had choeen. Nevertheless, unconscious hand pressure enabled the number to be announced as 3, whereas it should have been 4 ] In conclusion, thought-reading is lt:mn. f>erformed by trickery, but that does not in cne ea3t disprove its existence. True thought-reading I believe to be scientifically possible as far as we csu at present see, but very improbable. In the !arge majority of cases I believe it is due to mus- cular action, always unconscious on the part of the subject, and often unconsciously received by the operator.