Metaphysical (paranormal) research
Metaphysical (paranormal) research, may be roughly yet sufficiently described as an effort to determine by strictly scientific methods the nature and significance of apparitions, hauntings, spiritual phenomena, and those other weird occurrences that would seem to confirm the idea that the spirits of the dead can and do communicate with the living.
It is something comparatively new and like all scientific endeavour is the outgrowth of many minds. But so far as its origin may be attributed to any one man, credit must chiefly be given to a Cambridge
University professor named Henry Sidgwick. At the time, Sidgwick was merely a lecturer in the university, a post given him as a reward for his brilliant career as an undergraduate.
He was a born student and investigator, a restless seeker after knowledge. Philosophy, sociology, ethics, economics, mathematics, the classics, he made almost the whole wide field of thought his sphere of inquiry. And after a while, as is so often the case, his learning became too profound for his peace of mind.
He had been born and brought up in the faith of the English Church, and had unhesitatingly made the religious declaration required of all members of the university faculty. But little by little he felt himself drifting from the moorings of his youth, and doubting the truth of the ancient doctrines and traditions. Honestly sceptical, but still unwilling to lose his hold on religion, he turned feverishly to the study of oriental languages, of ancient philosophies, of history, of science, in the hope of finding evidence that would remove his doubts.
But the more he read the greater grew his uncertainty, especially with respect to the vital question of the existence of a world and its relation to mankind.
While he was still labouring in this valley of indecision, Sidgwick was visited by a young man, Frederic W. H. Myers, who had studied under him a few years earlier and for whom he had formed a warm friendship. Myers, it seemed, was tormented by the same scruples that were harassing him.
It was his belief, he told Sidgwick, that if the teachings of the Bible were true if there existed a world which in days of old had been manifest to mankind then such a world should be manifest now. And one beautiful, starlit evening, when they were strolling together through the university grounds, he put to his old master the pointed question: “Do you think that, although tradition, intuition, metaphysics, have failed to solve the riddle of the universe, there is still a chance of solving it by drawing from actual observable phenomena ghosts, spirits, whatsoever it may be valid knowledge as to a world unseen?”
Gazing gravely into the eager face of his companion, and weighing his words with the caution that was characteristic of him, Sidgwick replied that he had indeed entertained this thought; that, although not over hopeful of the result, he believed such an inquiry should be undertaken, notwithstanding the unpleasant notoriety it would entail on those embarking in it. Would he, then, make the quest, and would he permit Myers to pursue it by his side?