Well Authenticated Evidence
Long and earnestly the two friends talked together, and when their walk ended, that December night in 1869, metaphysical (paranormal) research had at last come definitely into being.
In the beginning, however, progress was painfully slow and uncertain. “Our methods,” as Myers afterward explained, “were all to make. In those early days we were more devoid of precedents, of guidance, even of criticism that went beyond mere expressions of contempt, than is now readily conceived.” It was realized that no mere analysis of alleged experiences in the past would do; that what was needed was a rigid scrutiny of present day manifestations of a seemingly supernormal character, and the collection of a mass of well authenticated evidence sufficient to justify inferences and conclusions.
Earnestly and bravely the friends went to work, and before long had the satisfaction of finding an invaluable assistant in the person of Edmund Gurney, another Cambridge man and an enthusiast in all matters metaphysical (paranormal).
At first, to be sure, Gurney entered into metaphysical (paranormal) research in a half-hearted, quizzical way, expecting to be amused rather than instructed. And he derived little encouragement from the investigations carried on by Sidgwick, Myself, and himself in the field of spiritual mediumship.
Fraud seemed always to be at the bottom of the phenomena produced in the séance room. But his interest was suddenly and permanently awakened by the discovery, following several years spent in patiently collecting evidence, of facts pointing to the possibility of thought being communicated from mind to mind by some agency other than the recognized organs of sense.
At once he made it his special business to accumulate data bearing on this point, his labours ultimately leading him into an exhaustive examination of hypnotism, as he found that the hypnotic trance seemed peculiarly favourable to “thought transference,” or “telepathy.”
Meantime, the example of this little Cambridge group had been followed by other investigators; and in 1876, before no less dignified and conservative a body than the British Association for the Advancement of Science, the proposal was made that a special committee be appointed for the systematic examination of spiritual and kindred phenomena.
The idea was broached by Dr W. F. Barrett, professor of physics at the Royal College of Science, Dublin, and was warmly seconded by Dr Alfred Russel Wallace and Sir William Crookes, two distinguished scientists who had already made adventures in metaphysical (paranormal) research and were destined to wide renown as ghost hunters.
For some reason nothing was done at the time; but five years later Professor Barrett renewed his suggestion, asking Myers and Gurney if they would join him in the formation of such a society. That, they replied, they would gladly do, provided Sidgwick could be induced to accept its presidency.
Having long before realized that the field was too extensive for thorough exploration by any individual, however gifted, Sidgwick willingly gave his consent. And accordingly, in January, 1882, the now celebrated Society for Metaphysical (paranormal) Research was formally organized, its first council including, besides Sidgwick, Myers, Gurney, and Barrett, such men as Arthur J. Balfour, afterward Prime Minister of Great Britain; the brilliant Richard Hutton; Prof Balfour Stewart; and Frank Podmore, than whom no more merciless executioner of bogus ghosts is wielding the axe to-day.