IN the preceding pages I have endeavoured to discharge a difficult task, one that it is almost impossible to discharge satisfactorily. Limitations of space prevent me from explaining my concepts step by step and offering proofs thereof. To have done so would have required a library, not a book. I have had to presume in my readers not only an acquaintance with the literature of occultism but, what is much rarer, some experience of its practice. At the same time I have endeavoured to offer sufficient explanation as I went along to make my pages comprehensible to those whose acquaintance with the subject is but cursory.
This book is not, and cannot be, a satisfactory handbook for the treatment of psychic disorders. All it can do is to point in directions where enquiries might be pursued with advantage. If it serves to direct attention to certain subjects that badly need investigation it will have fulfilled its purpose.
I may be charged with having revived the superstitions of the Middle Ages. To this charge I must plead guilty. But I must put forward as a counter-claim the plea that there could not be so much smoke without some fire, and that the superstitions of the Middle Ages may repay examination in the light of the recent discoveries concerning the psychology of subconsciousness.
Whoever is familiar with the literature of psychic research, abnormal psychology, and the baser aspects of that movement which took its rise from the inspiration of Christian Science and spread into a hundred uncontrolled cults, cannot fail to be struck by the fact that the old witch-finders were getting exactly the same phenomena as we meet with in all these different movements and fields of thought.
It has been said that since we find the stigmata of hysteria liberally distributed among those unhappy beings charged with witchcraft that the witch-cult is explained and disposed of. But we may find that a study of the real motives underlying the witch-cult would throw light on hysteria and the allied mental states.
It has also been said that history moves in cycles. At the present moment we are seeing a great revival of interest in psychic and occult subjects. We shall not have to look very much further to find that there are also the very promising beginnings of a witch-cult in our midst.
Let it be remembered that the cases I have quoted in these pages are from the experience of a single person, and I am by no means exceptional in the range of my experience, though I may be less cautious than most in committing myself to paper. If one dip of the bucket reveals so much, what might not be brought up by systematic dredging?
Since my treatment of my subject must necessarily be cursory, I should like to direct the attention of my readers to certain books which throw a great deal of light upon the question from various angles.
Not only occultists, but psychologists, alienists and students of psychic matters owe an immense debt of gratitude to the scholarship of the Rev. Montague Summers and the enterprise of Messrs. Rodker for making available exact and complete translations of the principal books upon witchcraft that were written by the men who were actually concerned in stamping out the witch-cult and had first-hand knowledge of its nature.
In addition to these I would direct my readers' attention to Projection of the Astral Body, by Muldoon and Carrington, which throws a very interesting light upon the manner in which genuine witches attended the Sabbats. I do not mean by these words to imply that Mr. Muldoon is addicted to wizardry, but he certainly possesses the traditional powers, and if he can do these things at the present day, why could not the witches have done them in days past? At any rate, I do not think there is much doubt that the Holy Inquisition would have paid him the compliment of burning him if he had lived during its hey-day.
Thirty Years with the Dead, by Dr. Wickstead, is another book which gives chapter and verse for personal experience instead of citing authorities and theorising about them. It is the record of an asylum doctor whose wife is a trance medium, and who made a most remarkable series of investigations concerning the nature of obsessing entities.
In Dr. Moll's book on hypnotism some remarkable phenomena are recorded such as do not find their way into modern books, whether because the investigators are less expert at eliciting them, or more cautious in communicating them, having profited by the experience of the earlier investigators. Some of the earlier books on hypnosis and mesmerism yield some very interesting reading to the psychic investigator.
Dr. T. W. Mitchell's Medical Psychology and Psychical Research is another book of value to the student, who should be familiar not only with the signs of psychic attack, but also with the signs of pseudo-attack in order that he may distinguish between them and not be misled into some very uncomfortable errors. To find one has been successfully hoaxed by a lunatic is a humiliating experience.
Myers' Human Personality is of course a classic with which every student of psychic phenomena ought to be familiar. There is an excellent abridged edition available for those who do not feel equal to coping with the two massive volumes of its original form.
Nicholl's Dream Psychology and Hart's Psychology of Insanity are two exceedingly illuminating little books, both written for the layman and readily comprehensible by him. They throw a great deal of light upon the mechanisms of the mind, and no one should attempt to deal with a psychic attack unless he understands those mechanisms. My own little book, Machinery of the Mind, written under my maiden name of Violet M. Firth, will, I think, be found a useful general introduction to modern psychology.
Let us approach the subject of modern witchcraft neither in a spirit of incredulity nor of superstition, but from the standpoint of the psychologist, seeking to understand the workings of the mind and prepared to discover much that had hitherto passed unsuspected.
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